a bear lays on the dirt floor at a zoo in lebanon

The "War Vet" that saved Kaavan now brings two bears to the U.S.

FOUR PAWS flies "Beirut Bears" from Lebanon to Colorado sanctuary


June 10, 2021 – BOSTON, MA – FOUR PAWS is bringing two Syrian brown bears, affectionately known to the team as the “Beirut Bears”, from inadequate conditions in a Lebanese zoo to a wild animal sanctuary in the US. Through economic collapse, civil unrest, a global pandemic, and a devastating explosion, the bears have survived some of the worst conditions of captivity. Now, Dr. Amir Khalil and a small, expert FOUR PAWS team works in Lebanon to prepare the bears for transport. The bears will land in the US on Monday, June 14th.

Dr. Khalil, fresh off the transfer of the now-famous elephant Kaavan, turned his attention to the Beirut Bears. While he has earned the nickname "the war vet", Dr. Khalil and FOUR PAWS have built a reputation for their expertise in conflict zones.

In December 2019, FOUR PAWS conducted an emergency mission to care for several wild animals kept in captivity in southern Lebanon. It was from this emergency mission that FOUR PAWS and Dr. Khalil first saw and examined the Beirut Bears. Trapped in tiny cages, some smaller than a ping-pong table, the bears had no water, sporadic food, and inadequate shelter from the weather. The emergency mission attempted to turn into a rescue mission as planning to relocate the bears got under way.

Efforts were hampered by numerous challenged in and outside of Lebanon. Finally, two years later, the bears will soon walk on grass.

A mission two years in the making

FOUR PAWS is concluding a mission started back in 2019 when a team first provided aid and medical support for animals in two local Lebanese zoos. FOUR PAWS has hoped back in 2019 to aid in the re-homing of the bears shortly after the team’s first visit. Due to intense political unrest in Lebanon, the beginning of boarder shutdowns due to COVID-19, and then the horrific Lebanese explosion, plans were thwarted. FOUR PAWS did continue to provide medical care and nutrition for these 18-year-old bears who were placed in the care of Animals Lebanon.

“We are so very thrilled that this mission is taking shape. The world now knows that FOUR PAWS is uniquely positioned for these difficult rescue missions, and through our expertise, and the expertise of our partners, Animals Lebanon and the Wildlife Sanctuary, we can dramatically change the lives of these two bear and provide for them a species-appropriate home for the rest of their lives.” 

-Danika Oriol-Morway, Country Director for FOUR PAWS in the US

A partnership network

FOUR PAWS is partnering with two very important organizations on either side of the Beirut Bear rescue. In Lebanon, FOUR PAWS has partnered with Animals Lebanon, an organization improving the welfare of animals through comprehensive national animal protection and welfare legislation. Then, crucial puzzle piece to this global relocation is the destination of the Beirut Bears. The bears will enjoy a species-appropriate home at The Wild Animal Sanctuary, located near Keenesburg, Colorado, which is the largest and oldest nonprofit carnivore sanctuary in the world, with over 600 rescued animals including lions, tigers, bears, wolves, leopards and other large carnivores.

The Beirut Bears mission is FOUR PAWS’ first ever wild animal transport to the US and would not be possible without a generous gift from the Karmagawa Foundation. The Karmagawa Foundation is a new charity community that has made over $6 million in donations to over 70 charities to build schools, libraries, and medical centers; to protect our environment and endangered species; to rescue animals; and to feed children and communities in need all over the world.

Experts in the field

FOUR PAWS has a long history of rescues particularly animal transports from areas of conflict or destruction. Between 2016 and 2019, the FOUR PAWS team evacuated three zoos in the Gaza Strip. In 2017, FOUR PAWS rescued 13 animals from an amusement park near Aleppo in Syria, as well as the last two surviving animals in Mosul, Iraq, a bear, and lion from a zoo. FOUR PAWS was also on the ground in Beirut after the disastrous port explosion bringing in much needed food and supplies, providing veterinary care and assisting the reunification of many pets with their owners.

FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organization for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need, and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organization advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy, and understanding. FOUR PAWS’ sustainable campaigns and projects focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam, as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.fourpawsusa.org 

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