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Group Urges Roadside Zoo in Cherokee to "Free the Bears"

Bears pace in concrete pits bereft of anything that is natural to them.
Bears pace in concrete pits bereft of anything that is natural to them.
August 27, 2013

CHEROKEE, N.C. - It's been a very good summer for 11 bears that were released from captivity last month from Chief Saunooke Bear Park in Cherokee. After years of perseverance by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), some petitioners and one very generous and anonymous donor, all 11 bears were relocated from a life in concrete pits to acres of grass, trees and swimming holes at a sanctuary in Texas.

However, there are still other bears being kept at yet another roadside attraction called The Cherokee Bear Zoo. According to Jeff Kerr, general counsel for PETA, the bears there are kept in concrete pits and deprived of anything that is natural to them.

That means, he said, that they don't have the chance to engage in "all natural behaviors, such as climbing, foraging, digging and nest building. And as you can imagine, for a sensitive, intelligent animal like bears, this is pure torture."

Kerr said the imprisoned bears pace and walk in circles and beg tourists for food. He said PETA and others will continue to fight until these bears are also rescued from the concrete pits and retired to a reputable sanctuary. There are online petitions that have garnered thousands of signatures.

Kerr said some zoos in the U.S. do provide more natural environments for animals, but the conditions for the bears at the Cherokee Bear Zoo are inhumane.

"No animal should have to suffer, just for some fleeting human amusement," he declared. "This is the 21st century and that should not be happening in this country."

The Cherokee Bear Zoo did not respond to numerous requests to be interviewed for this story.

The Chief Saunooke Bear Park in Cherokee closed its doors and no longer exhibits animals. The retired bears now live at The International Exotic Animal Sanctuary in Boyd, Texas.

The Change.org petition is at change.org.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - NC