Thanks in large part to The Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon, the last of 17 bears scheduled to be relocated from virtually barren concrete pits at a Georgia roadside zoo arrived this week at their new home at The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado.
The bears — including two who have since given birth — finally have the freedom to explore, roam, and nest in acres of natural habitat as well as the opportunity to enjoy nutritious food, including fresh fruits and vegetables. The move was a result of a collaborative effort among PETA, Simon (after whom PETA’s Virginia headquarters is named), and the Atlanta Humane Society.
At Black Forest Bear Park in Helen, Ga., the bears showed signs of severe stress such as pacing, had little protection from the elements, and were forced to beg tourists for rotten pieces of apples, a federal law violation for which the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) cited the facility. The government also cited Black Forest — which, with the departure of the bears, has now closed for good — for housing the bears in unsafe and decrepit enclosures that contained rust, jagged edges, and protruding bolts.
“Thanks to Sam Simon, these bears went from the miserable existence that they endured for years to the freedom and joy that they’re experiencing today,” says PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. “Bears don’t belong in roadside zoos, deprived of everything that’s natural and important to them, including being able to feel the earth beneath their feet.”
Black Forest was one of a number of substandard facilities featured in a formal petition that PETA submitted to the USDA for bear-specific welfare standards. After more than a year of inaction on the petition, PETA sued the agency, which weeks later published it in the Federal Register and is seeking public comments.