After 30 years in captivity, a bear takes to freedom immediately

A roadside zoo is an unhappy place for any bear, but for one bear it was an ordeal that’s hard to even imagine. Fifi spent the first 10 years of her life at the Big Bear Farm Zoo Park in Pennsylvania. She was forced to entertain people by doing ridiculous tricks and all she got in exchange was terrible food and bad treatment. The zoo shut down but Fifi wasn’t released to the wild or transferred to real zoo. Instead, she spent the next 20 years living in a rusty old cage with a concrete slab floor and a sort of dilapidated doghouse as the only shelter.

Finally, someone dropped a dime and a rescue was organized, a joint effort by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and The Wild Animal Sanctuary. Fifi’s condition was awful: she was shockingly thin, her coat looked terrible, and she had painful, untreated arthritis. 30 years of bad treatment and neglect definitely showed.

Fifi and the two other bears rescued with her were moved to The Wild Animal Sanctuary’s 720 acre spread in the rolling grasslands of Colorado. The organization’s primary 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.” The sanctuary has over 450 animals in residence and it’s one of only a few in the United States that can handle large, exotic carnivores.

Nobody knew how Fifi was going to do after 30 years in captivity. Turns out they had nothing to worry about: she adjusted amazingly quickly to her new life amid prairie grass and swimming holes. Five months after she arrived in Colorado, she was healthy, looked great, and her arthritis was much better. Now that she had a real den, she was going to be able to hibernate for the first time in her life.

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