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The aim of this project was to confiscate several captive bears from poor private keeping in the Yerevan area and give them a new home in the large bear enclosure of Yerevan Zoo, which was completed at the end of 2017 with financial help from Bears in Mind.

Just before Christmas 2017, with funding from Bears in Mind, a bear was freed from its cage at Shant restaurant and transferred to the quarantine enclosure at Yerevan Zoo. She had to stay in quarantine for a few weeks to recover and her very bad teeth were taken care of. She now walks among the other bears in the large bear enclosure in the zoo and is doing well!

The second bear that was rescued in spring of 2018 was a 2-3 year old female (see photo below). Nothing is known about her origin, whether wild or born in captivity, but until rescued by FPWC she was kept in a small concrete cage next to the Golden Hill hotel in the northern Armenian city of Gyumri. She has also been transferred to the quarantine enclosure in Yerevan Zoo and fortunately she is doing well and in excellent health!

The Brown bear (Ursus arctos) is one of the threatened large carnivore species in Armenia considered
Vulnerable” in the Red Data Book of Armenia. The species is under pressure because of habitat loss and degradation, caused by the anthropogenic persistent pressure across the country, illegal hunting, poaching and trapping. Furthermore, bear cubs are regularly captured from the wild and kept as pets. There is a lack of recent scientific data on population size, trends, distribution and behavior of Brown bears across the country. However, the research conducted in 2013 in Vayots dzor region suggests that a significant population of bears occurs in the region.

Since 2016, the Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets (FPWC) initiated a wild fruit tree nursery in the Caucasus Nature Reserve (CWR), focusing on reducing Human-Wildlife
Conflict in Ararat and Vayots dzor regions by planting site-specific wild fruit trees. This provides nutrition from small songbirds to large mammals like bears. Since the project started, the FPWC planted more than 350,000 wild fruit trees aiming to restore the degraded lands, providing habitat for breeding, foraging and resting. Also, the land restoration programme target to tackle and minimize the climate change impact in the country.

The aim of the project supported by Bears in Mind since 2022, is to reduce and mitigate human-bear conflict in the Vayots dzor region by forming a “Rapid Response Group” to gather comprehensive data on the bear attacks and establishing site-specific wild fruit orchards and plantations to keep away the nuisance bears from the rural settlements and providing an alternative source of food and nutrition for bears and other wildlife in the long-term. Moreover, in the short term, the FPWC aims to establish a supplemental feeding programme for the bears feeding them with seasonal fruits and vegetables bought from the villagers of vulnerable communities.

The Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets in Armenia (FPWC) uses film to create awareness about the important and stunning biodiversity present in Armenia as well as in the whole southern Caucasus region. The region is a so-called ‘hotspot’. This means that it is extremely rich in species but is at the same time also one of the most threatened areas in the region. Locals are hardly aware of these treasures of abundance and hardly do anything to protect it. FPWC strives to raise awareness amongst the local people, old and young, in multiple ways.

Since 2011, FPWC has been closely involved with Yerevan Zoo. This has presented a unique opportunity to put Armenia’s abundant biodiversity into the spotlight. Besides this, it is of utmost importance to rebuild the many old enclosures in the zoo in order to increase the overall welfare of the zoos animals. The old bear enclosure, which will be part of the ‘Large Bear Enclosure’ has been given natural substrate, safe hiding places and climbing structures, thus giving the bears the opportunity to develop their natural behaviour. The animal keepers have been thoroughly trained about taking proper care of bears. At the beginning of 2015, construction of the almost 6 hectare ‘LBE’ started. Many construction materials, such as mesh wire fences, power generators and electric fencing were donated with the help of Bears in Mind.

The Armenian ‘Large Bear Enclosure’ in Yerevan Zoo was finished in 2017 and several bears confiscated from restaurants and private ownership have been moved to their new home since then. In 2021, the LBE accommodated 16 bears and a pack of wolves.

According to non-official data around 60 brown bears used to be kept in miserable captive conditions throughout Armenia. Mainly in restaurants, petrol stations, private premises and factories. Since 2017, the FPWC, along with the responsible governmental bodies has confiscated and relocated around 32 bears out of 60 into Bear Rehabilitation Center, located in Ursadzor village of Ararat region, far from human settlements. The Center runs on donations, grants, as well as support of local and international community and cooperation. All of the rescued bears have a difficult background from their former captive situation and have suffered years of isolation in horrible conditions. Wrong diet & keeping conditions has led to issues with dentals, gastroenterological problems, arthritis, joint problems, as well as behavioral issues and stereotypic behavior. These bears require special veterinary care and monitoring of behavior to assess their rehab status and ensure welfare is guaranteed in the Center. Bears in Mind has provided funds to help FPWC improve their welfare at the Center.