- Title: BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA: Abused bear prepares for new life in France
- Date: 16th April 2008
- Summary: CAR DOOR CLOSING CAR TRANSPORTING BEAR DRIVING AWAY
- Embargoed: 1st May 2008 13:00
- Location: Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Country: Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Topics: Nature / Environment
- Reuters ID: LVAC0FMNQ3UXWF4YT9YBQRM4E8F1
- Story Text: A Bosnian bear who fell into the hands of mobsters and almost died from starvation and solitude travels to a French sanctuary this week for a life of luxury with two female companions.
When Miljen's mother was killed by hunters in 2000, the bear cub was sold to a crime boss keen to emulate famous Balkan criminals who see keeping wild animals as proof of machismo.
The gangster was jailed in 2005 for running a trafficking and prostitution ring, and Miljen was left to the mercy of neighbours, who could only afford to feed him bread.
He weighed just 70 kg (155 lb) by the time a Serbian film-maker saw him while shooting footage in the area.
The French animal protection group Respectons and its Bosnian counterpart Noa then started a bureaucratic marathon to get the bear to a sanctuary in Normandy.
"When we discovered him about three months ago he was like only bones, only bones," Patrick Sacco of Respectons said.
Because Bosnia has not signed an international convention on animal transport, Miljen almost found himself in the same quagmire as his human compatriots, who have to fill in endless forms and queue for hours to apply for often-denied EU visas. Finally his saviours were told they could move him only if medical tests proved he was in good health. Locals in Prijedor chipped in, and it took three months of intensive feeding before the animal reached 200 kg and was in a position to have the necessary blood tests.
Miljen should have the chance to meet with other bears, once he gets to France.
"In this place there is two animals like him, two females, old females but two females. And he will probably for the first time meet animals like him. For eight years he was always alone in this cage," Sacco said.
Miljen began his journey on Tuesday (April 15) and is due to reach his new home later this week.
Many locals came to wish him farewell and for Davor Gvozden who has taken care of the bear for the last three months, it was an emotional moment.
"I feel really ashamed that the animal lived in a such bad condition but I tried to help as much as I could," he said, unable to hold back his tears.
Miljen will be transported in an air conditioned van with video surveillance, accompanied by specially trained vets and French TV crews.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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