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Animal Rights Watch: Babolsar zoo sued and urged to close after social network campaign deplores mistreatment of animals at cramped site

Babolsar zoo bear, chained to ground
Babolsar’s zoo young chained bear, above, was reportedly seized from the wild in Gilan province, Iran. Photograph: CHN

The environmental authorities of Iran have sued a zoo for keeping animals in poor conditions, particularly for chaining a bear to a post.

Iran’s environment department said on Wednesday it had inspected Babolsar’s zoo, in the northern province of Mazandaran, and was pursuing a legal case following complaints by the public over the mistreatment of animals held there.

On social networks Iranians recently shared pictures of a bear with a chain fastened to its neck, and expressed outrage about the way the animal was being held captive in Babolsar.

Mohammad Darvish, of the department’s educational and public participation office, told the news website Tabnak he was dismayed at seeing the bear’s plight and said he believed the zoo should be closed down.

“I raised the issue with the head of Mazandaran’s environment department and asked him to follow it up as soon as I saw the picture,” he said. “Conservationists visited the zoo the next day and have confirmed [that] animals were being held under bad conditions.”

Tabnak carried a headline with its article about the zoo, which read: “A few pictures changed the fate of Babolsar’s poor bear.” Darvish told Tabnak that veterinary surgeons had been sent to the zoo.

“The zoo should be closed down because of its poor facilities and little space,” Darvish said.

The news site said the bear had been transferred to Babolsar under the previous government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Iran’s cultural heritage news agency, CHN, reported this month that the wild bear was seized from hunters in Gilan province, in the north of the country, four years ago and later transferred to the Babolsar zoo. The agency described the zoo as an animal prison.

Shahram Amiri Sharifi, of an Iranian animal rights’ group, told CHN the bear was taken to Babolsar for breeding purposes although it had not yet reached that age. Sharifi also said he had seen signs of the bear having been trained to perform in a circus.

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