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Orphaned baby bear finds home in Sarajevo zoo

Updated July 17, 2019

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SARAJEVO: The bear cub with Semir Handzic, veterinary technician at the zoo. — Reuters
SARAJEVO: The bear cub with Semir Handzic, veterinary technician at the zoo. — Reuters

SARAJEVO: Orphaned baby bear Aida, who was rescued by villagers after she fled the Bosnian woods in search of food and shelter, has found a new home in the Sarajevo Zoo where she has become a star attraction.

The cub, now four months old, suffered from malnutrition when she arrived at the zoo in May and was traumatised after having been separated first from her mother and then from rescuers who found her in a mountain village, officials said.

She has been nursed back to health under the care of the zoo’s medical team, who initially wondered whether she would survive.

“Each day counted literally while she was in quarantine,” said Aldijana Hamzic, a spokeswoman for Park BiH, the company that runs the Sarajevo Zoo. “The whole team of experts and vets spent (almost a month) with her, she did not even know how to eat and was very timid.” Aida is now five times heavier than when she arrived, loves to eat fruit and vegetables and is still clumsy, overturning bowls of food and milk.

She is no longer afraid of people and is devoted to Semir Handzic, a veterinary technician who regularly feeds her.

“She loves to socialise, to play, she does not like to be alone,” Handzic said at the zoo on Tuesday as Aida, standing on her hind feet against a fence, greeted young visitors on the other side as they called out her name.

“I like her, she is so cute,” said seven-year-old Dzana from Sarajevo, who came to the zoo with her grandparents, following many other children who have been to see Aida.

The villagers who rescued Aida say her mother was probably killed by poachers, who often prey on Bosnia’s population of around 850 brown bears.

Aida is still nervous and adjusting to zoo life but when her recovery is complete later this year she will join two other female brown bears in a bigger pen in the zoo, Hamzic said.

“Even though this was a very risky project, we can say that we have fantastic results,” she said.

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2019