For any bear, life in a roadside zoo would be unhappy. But for one bear, it was an unimaginable ordeal. Fifi spent the first 10 years of her life as a performing bear at the Big Bear Farm Zoo Park in Pennsylvania. She was forced to entertain people by doing absurd tricks like riding a bicycle. When the show finally came to an end, she wasn’t released to the wild or even given to a zoo. Instead, Fifi spent the next 20 years living in a rusty old cage with a concrete slab floor and something resembling a dilapidated doghouse for shelter.
At long last, word got out and a rescue was organized. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and The Wild Animal Sanctuary swung into action and freed Fifi and two other bears from their cages. Fifi was shockingly thin and suffered from painful, untreated arthritis. A total of 30 years of bad treatment and neglect had taken a terrible toll on her.
Fifi and the other bears were transported to Colorado where The Wild Animal Sanctuary has a 720 acre spread situated in rolling grasslands. A major part of the organization’s mission is “To rescue and provide life-long homes for large, exotic and endangered captive wild animals and to educate the public about the causes of and solutions to the world’s captive wildlife crisis.” They have over 450 animals in residence and are one of a relatively small number of sanctuaries in the United States that can handle large exotic carnivores.
They weren’t sure how Fifi was going to do after 30 years in captivity. They needn’t have worried. She very quickly adjusted to her new life amid prairie grass and swimming holes. After just five months, she was healthy, had a full coat, and her legs were getting stronger. Now that she had a proper den, she even was going to be able to hibernate for the first time in her life.
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