Illegally incarcerated bear cub in the Ushguli Lamaria Monastery, Svaneti, Georgia

This video was taken on 5th July, 2015 by foreign tourists, Avishay and Sandy Gesrhony. The video shows a bear cub, illegally kept captive in the Ushguli Lamaria monastery, Svaneti, Georgia. The bear cub is subject to excruciating cruelty.

The Georgian Society for the Protection and Safety of Animals is planning to refer the issue to the Ministry of Environment Protection and demand that legally prescribed measures are immediately taken in this regard. The Society will also request that the origin of the bear cub is investigated.

Recent increase of cases, where poachers sacrifice bear cubs to the clergy, is alarming. There is no action from the Georgian Patriarchate against such cases. On the contrary, the captivity of bears in monasteries is an increasing trend.

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The brown bear – Ursus arctos

Brown bears found in Georgia are medium to large size – ranging on average – height 2.5 meters (8’5 feet), weighing on average 480 kilograms ( 1060LB )

There are several recognized subspecies within the brown bear species found across Europe, Asia and North America, also known as the Grizzly Bear.

The brown bear is a forest creature and is recognized as a national animal in several European countries including Georgia.

Georgian Brown Bear is included in the “Red Book” and the “Red List” of protected inhabitants / wildlife. Hunting is strictly prohibited by law.

Illegal poaching of bears and other wildlife inhabitants is becoming more and more common in Georgia. The effect of poaching on the rates of extinction is very big.

2013 data shows that as of right now, 50 illegally captured bears are capt captive in Georgian orthodox churches and monasteries, restaurants, and private properties, all for personal amusement.

Unfortunately, most of these so-called trophies or toy bears end up dead.

According to the Georgian code of administrative offense, article 853 ,Animals listed in “Red Book” or “Red List” -Annihilation of rare animals and animals on the verge of extinction or committing actions causing destruction of such animals, reduction of their number or disturbing their habitat; trading or capturing of such animals without relevant permit is illegal and if fined with 150 – 850 Lari (66.00 – 380 USD). Weapons and / or tools used for destruction or capture of animals will be confiscated.

In Georgia, illegal extraction of bears from wildlife is a criminal offence and punishable by law.

February 2 of 2011, Georgian Minister of Environment and Natural Resources released an approved statement that ” According to the determination of environmental damage, illegal extraction of one bear from wildlife is equivalent to 50 000 lari (USD 22 000). Accordingly, the person responsible for causing damage to the environment must pay the monetary cost / indemnification.

According to the Georgian code of administrative offense, illegal poaching of animals included in “Red List”, is punishable by law in the form of monetary penalty ,community service up to 2 years, or imprisonment for up to 3 years.

Ushguli Lamaria Monastery, Svaneti, Georgia