Un-bear-able: Latest bear escape triggers debate in Armenia on keeping wild animals outside zoos

The case of another bear breaking loose in a public surrounding has trigged a fresh debate about the keeping of wild animals in Armenia.

The incident took place in the resort town of Tsaghkadzor on Tuesday. Armenia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations received a call from a local restaurant complex. Due to a joint effort by rescuers and zoo workers the beast was caught and transported to a safe place.

Wild animals have also been spotted in capital Yerevan in the past. Those are animals that for some reasons escaped from the privately owned places, such as restaurants, where they were kept.

In May, an emergency operation was needed after a bear was spotted in the streets of Yerevan. It turned out that the animal had escaped from a nearby swimming pool where it was kept. And in 2013 a bear cub was seen on the loose in Yerevan’s Artsakh Street.

Fortunately, no one was hurt in those cases, but it still raised public debate about the keeping of wild animals in inappropriate environments outside zoos.

Coordinator of the Public Ecological Coalition, Environmentalist Silva Adamyan told ArmeniaNow that they turned to the minister of nature protection and asked him to provide information on the condition of wild animals kept in cages. The reply, according to her, was that the field is open, there is no integral information as to what animals there are and on what basis private zoos are opened.

“They cannot even be called zoos, I would call them animal prisons, because those who keep the animals are not professionals and cannot keep the animals in normal conditions,” said Adamyan, adding that they still await an answer from the Ministry regarding their proposal of cooperation on the matter.

According to the environmentalist, the Ministry should conduct a monitoring regarding the keeping of wild animals in restaurants, they should demand permissions because, as she says, there are places where even animals that are included in the Red Book are kept.

“We have restaurants that in their menus offer bear, wild boar meat, venison are offered, while these animals are registered in the Red Book of Armenia and their hunting is banned,” said Adamyan, adding that although Armenia has acceded to international conventions, its legislative framework in this matter remains flawed.

The Ministry of Nature Protection told ArmeniaNow that if problems arise in this field, the Ministry’s inspection conducts a corresponding inquiry, but there is still no clear and relevant information in connection with the most recent case and information will be reported only after a relevant inquiry.

But according to Adamyan, the Ministry should try to prevent such incidents from happening with preventive control instead of waiting for the incident to happen and only then conduct a probe. According to the environmentalist, diseases from animals kept by non-professionals may also be transmitted to humans, besides, caged animals become more aggressive and dangerous.