There’s a reason wild animals are called wild animals: they’re not supposed to be caged in your backyard. They’re supposed to be out in nature, free to live and roam as they please.
If all animals stayed away from people, we wouldn’t have our modern-day dogs and cats, of course, but domesticated animals have been bred for centuries to be comfortable living with us, and in that time we have learned a lot about them and how to properly care for them.
People get themselves into trouble when they wander far outside the usual suspects as far as pets go. Any large predatory animals are especially dangerous and require a lot of space, time, and money to be healthy and happy.
That’s why when we see critters like lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!) tied up, chained or caged in inadequate quarters, it saddens us.
Riku the bear knew that life, and it was not a happy one. He was one of the many captive bears in Albania, and he was chained inside a windowless hut for much of his early life.
He was discovered by rescuers with the rescue Four Paws when he was just a few months old, and they worked diligently to get him into their care and to better living arrangements.
The bear was so terrified of them when they first found him; they tranquilized him, severed his chains, and took him to a zoo. Eventually, he ended up at Dancing Bears Animals Rescue Park where he received more species-appropriate care.
Since he was so young, he had to stay by himself, but he got to see other, bigger bears in the enclosures around his. And he fell in love with one.
Her name was Gabriela, and she had her own baggage. A former circus performer, she was missing one of her paws and was much older than Riku at age 22.
“It can be very nerve-racking introducing two bears for the first time,” said Jeta Lepaja, spokesperson for the rescue, “but Riku’s and Gabriela’s meeting was magical.”
“They never stopped touching one another or playing together — they were and are totally inseparable. If one of them wanted to swim in the pond, the other would follow; if one of them ate their meal, the other would do the same.”
Now, love is healing Riku’s broken heart, and the before and after photos are proof that he’s in a much better place in every way imaginable.
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