Euro host rehabs vodka bears

Rosa, a 5- year old female vodka bear, in a cage in Lityn, 400 km away from Kiev last December....

Rosa, a 5- year old female vodka bear, in a cage in Lityn, 400 km away from Kiev last December. (REUTERS)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:10 AM ET

POZNAN, POLAND - Euro 2012 came bearing good news for brown bears in Ukraine.

At least it's good news for those bears with drinking problems.

Now, these aren't the usual Yogi Bears who steal a picnic basket and find a quart of booze in it.

These are vodka bears.

The animals have been used as entertainment in cafes, bars and restaurants, with trainers forcing them to drink vodka and inducing them to dance drunkenly.

The Ukrainian government ordered last August that the bears -- there were about 80 of them -- be rehabilitated in preparation for releasing them into the wild. The order came well in advance of Euro 2012. The government was concerned that with hundreds of western journalists traipsing around Ukraine, the treatment of vodka bears would become a cause celebre.

The government has dedicated additional land to the bears at a nature preserve in western Ukraine, where the animals are being rehabilitated.

Bloomberg Businessweek has reported that the first of the recovering bears will be released into a cordoned-off forest during the next few weeks.

"This is where the bears will become bears again," Yuri Tyukh, the preserve's vice-director, said.

"If a foreigner comes here and sees a bear in a bar being treated terribly, it's very bad for the country's image.

"Then, before long, we'll have to worry about Greenpeace, the WWF -- all these people and what they will say about us."


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