Mima, 8, Misho, 19, and Svetla, 17 have endured horrible treatment, but Bulgaria’s last three dancing bears are finally free.
Throughout the Balkans, families have earned their living through the performing bears. The training techniques they used led to this practice being outlawed in 1993. Bulgaria is believed to have been the last country in the Balkans where dancing bears still performed.
The Four Paws Foundation paid for the bears’ freedom by giving the owners small grants to set up new businesses (authorities could have seized the bears from the owners since dancing bears are illegal). The owners signed pledges that they would never be in the dancing bear business again.
More on their past and future after the jump.
From The Associated Press:
The bears are captured while still young. Their nose or lips are pierced, and a metal ring attached to a chain is inserted; the pain ensures instant submission.
The cubs are forced to walk on burning embers or a hot sheet of metal, and hop from one hind leg to the other in order to escape the burning, while their trainer beats a drum. The process is repeated until the bear learns to connect the drum to the pain.
Mima, Misho and Svetla will join 20 other brown bears on Mount Rila at a 30-acre sanctuary for former dancing bears. They will be able to enjoy the rest of their lives in peace.