FPWC responds to the captive bears video

FPWC responds to the captive bears video distributed recently by civil society representatives

©Roger Allen

Gyumri Zoo bears transfer to Yerevan Zoo

In its recent research dated back to 2015/2016, FPWC has published respective data on the numbers of wild animals illegally kept in captivity throughout Armenia, highlighting the places and numbers of red-listed captive Brown bears (Wildlife Trade Assessment in Armenia FPWC/FFI 2015/2016, page 26).

According to the assessment of FPWC based on the perceived data from 4 surveyed regions, including Yerevan, as well as taking into account the existing unofficial data, there are as much as 60 to 80 brown bears illegally kept in captive or semi-captive conditions throughout the country.

It is noteworthy that keeping wild animals either in captive or semi-captive conditions, not corresponding to their biological needs, leads to a number of physiological and mental disorders (especially during their growth period), aggressive behavior, as well as partial or complete loss of wild instincts, which makes the further rehabilitation and socialization chances of the animal practically impossible.

In addition to the current national Law on Fauna prohibiting the capture and keeping of brown bears in captivity, the Brown bears’ red-listed status makes the legal consequences stemming from the laws of RA and international conventions even more aggravating.

The years of experience in the field indicate that similar illegal cases relating to animal welfare require coordinated action and strict control on a governmental level, which should be based on improved legislative tools, law enforcement and application of highly punitive mechanisms.

In early 2016, after having accomplished the mission of rescuing Gyumri zoo’s animals, as well as having analyzed the clear gaps and loopholes in the existing legislation, FPWC has been included in the public council set by the Ministry of Nature Protection, where presented a package of offers for regulating the field on a state level and came up with a set of suggestions aimed at improving the current legislation based on international experience, which was supposed to put an end to the tradition of holding wild animals as pets, foster state inspection visits to such facilities, assess the welfare conditions (diet, mandatory vet. examinations, facilities, etc.), register such animals and in case of any revealed violations apply as high fines as possible, impose accountability (up to criminal responsibility) by setting a precise mechanism of animal confiscations/seizures.

The proposed law was supposed to establish also a state financial fund for such cases, and the amounts generated from penalties and fines were planned to be diverted towards the operation of a Wildlife Rescue Center (WRC) in Armenia, which could potentially provide long-term refuge for handicapped animals rescued from inadequate facilities.

Regretfully, FPWC possesses no information on the further progress of the Law amendments.

As a basis of a future Wildlife Rescue Center (WRC), currently a Quarantine Station is operating in Ararat region of Armenia, constructed due to the generous support of FPWC’s partners and private donations, as FPWC is a non-profit and non-governmental organization.

Although the confiscation of the bears presented in the video per the existing laws and regulations is the responsibility and working task of Environmental Inspectorate under the Ministry of Nature Protection, FPWC hereby expresses its commitment and readiness to support the overall procedure of confiscation by involving its skills and expertise, as well as strongly advocating for the law enforcement and application of punitive mechanisms for any such cases.

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