After 2 Years and 7,559 Miles, Suffering Bears Finally Reach Sanctuary

Homer and Ulysses will have food, medical care, and ponds to splash in.

rescued bear

Hristo Vladev / Four Paws

Two long-suffering Syrian brown bears arrived this morning at a Colorado sanctuary after a rescue mission that took nearly two years.

Homer and Ulysses were spotted by the global animal welfare organization Four Paws in November 2019. The group had a team at two zoos in the south of Lebanon caring for several wild animals.

The male bears were kept in two tiny cages that were smaller than a ping-pong table. They had no water, were fed occasionally, and had little shelter from the weather. They suffered from malnutrition, damaged teeth, and showed behavioral issues as a result of psychological stress.

The owners of the private zoo didn't have the means to give them proper food and medical attention. Four Paws planned to fly them to safety in early 2020, but the group met obstacle after obstacle including civil unrest, pandemic-related border closures, and the horrific August warehouse explosion in Beirut that killed more than 200 people.

Four Paws continue to provide food and medical attention for the animals (then dubbed "the Beirut bears") which were cared for by Animals Lebanon until a permanent plan could be put in place.

But finally, the pieces fell into place and the 18-year-old bears made the trip, landing in Colorado today. They'll make their permanent home at The Wildlife Sanctuary, near Keenesburg, Colorado.

Located on more than 10,500 acres, it's the oldest and largest nonprofit carnivore sanctuary in the world with more than 600 rescued animals including bears, lions, tigers, wolves, and leopards. There are natural spaces so the bears can be in natural habitats with their own species, including many lakes and ponds.

Now that they've arrived in the sanctuary, Homer and Ulysses will need full medical assessments and individualized care plans that will include a healthy diet, socialization, and regular enrichment, according to Four Paws.

"Through our expertise, and the expertise of our partners, Animals Lebanon and The Wild Animal Sanctuary, we can dramatically change the lives of these two bears and provide them with a species-appropriate home for the rest of their lives,” says Dr. Amir Khalil, Four Paws veterinarian, who first examined the bears nearly two years ago.

rescued bear
Hristo Vladev / Four Paws

The bears made the 7,559-mile journey from Lebanon to Colorado with financial support from the Karmagawa Foundation, a global social charity community.

Four Paws is the same group that rescued "world's loneliest elephant" Kaavan from Pakistan to Cambodia. The organization also evacuated three zoos in the Gaza Strip, rescued animals from an amusement park in Syria, and several surviving bears and lions from zoos in Iraq and Pakistan.

This is the first time that the organization has transported animals to the United States.

Danika Oriol-Morway, country director for Four Paws USA met the bears at the airport and escorted them to Colorado.

"It’s been a long journey for these bears, but they have continued to show us their resilience every step of the way," Oriol-Morway tells Treehugger.

"Now that we have arrived in the beautiful wilderness of Colorado, Homer and Ulysses can finally roam freely in a landscape as wild and pure as their spirits.”

View Article Sources
  1. "Suffering "Beirut Bears" Start New Life in American Sanctuary." Four Paws, 2021.

  2. "About Us." The Wild Animal Sanctuary.