Six rescued bears set free in Kurdish national park

CHOMAN, Kurdistan Region — Six hand-raised Asiatic brown bears were set free on Monday in the wilds of Halgord National Park, a wildlife sanctuary north of the Kurdistan Region.

The bears had been working animals, forced to perform tricks like dancing and languished inside uncomfortable cages for much of their life, according to the Kurdish-American Organisation which secured their release.

The six bears had partly been trained for survival in the wild by the organisation before releasing them in the wild nature.

“They were being kept in very poor and inhumane conditions in different places across the Kurdistan Region. The owners made money by showing them to the public or simply making them dance,” said Bilind Birifkani, head of the Kurdish-American organisation, a joint venture that promotes friendly ties between Kurdistan and the US.

“We have now managed to bring these bears to where they really belong, but there are of course other wild animals elsewhere which we plan to set free,” he added.The touching moment that four bears set foot outside their tiny cages after years inside nearly sent the bears mad. They began pacing and swaying in the tiny cages moments earlier, a sign that they were suffering from physical and mental deprivation, organisers said.

After their release, however the bears took tentative steps into their comfortable new enclosures, clean and complete with baths and greenery in the Halgord mountaintops covered with snow which the organisers said the bears had deeply longed for.

“Wild creatures belong here and not in cages,” she added.

“The nature and environment here is really amazing. It’s a perfect place for wildlife, this is why we brought these animals here,” said Avin Halo, head of the American School in Erbil who also helped release the animals.