Having to spend a lifetime in roadside zoo would be an unhappy experience for any bear. But for this one it turned into a horrible ordeal. Fifi spent the first 10 years of her life as a performer at the Big Bear Farm Zoo in Pennsylvania. She was compelled to entertain people by doing inane tricks like riding a bicycle. What’s really shocking is what happened when the show came to an end. They kept her in a rusty old cage with a concrete slab floor for the next 20 years! All she had for shelter was a kind of dilapidated doghouse.
Word did finally get out and a rescue was organized by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and The Wild Animal Sanctuary. Fifi and two other bears were liberated. Poor Fifi was undernourished and skinny. She was also suffering from painful, untreated arthritis. 30 years of neglect and bad treatment had really done a number on her.
Fifi and the other bears were transported to The Wild Animal Sanctuary’s 720 acre spread located in the rolling grasslands of Colorado. A key 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.” In total, they’re host to over 450 animals and they’re one of only a few sanctuaries in the United States that can handle large carnivores.
There was no telling how Fifi was going to do after spending so much time in captivity. As it turned out, she adjusted very quickly to her new life amid prairie grass and swimming holes. Just five months after arriving at the sanctuary, she was healthy, had a nice, full coat, and her arthritic legs were much improved. With a proper den now available, Fifi was going to hibernate for the first time in her life.
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