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14 Jul, 2009 08:52

Bear essentials

A Russian couple who took in a neglected bear from a zoo say they can no longer afford to look after it and are appealing for help.

A bear's life seems a simple one. But it is not so simple if you have got to look after it.

The carefree life is something Trisha the bear knows very well. The open-air cage has been her home for years, and she happily eats, sleeps and plays there all day long.

But it has not always been this easy.

Her owners, Aleksandr and Irina, saved Trisha's life by taking her in. If it were not for them, she would have died.

“I heard about her on the TV. She was alone in a cage, with no food, no one to take care of her. So I went and took her back with me. I am a biologist, and I got some people from the Moscow and local zoos to help out with transport. She's been living with us ever since,” Aleksandr told RT.

Trisha seems very pleased with her new home. For Aleksandr, that took a lot of time to achieve.

“We had so many doctors come to treat her. She was weak, starving; she could not even shed her winter fur. And then all the officials started coming round, demanding permits, vaccination papers, anything and everything. We brought her here three years ago – and only now the bureaucracy is over,” Aleksandr continued.

So now, Trisha can happily play in her home, eat condensed milk – her favorite snack – and take long baths.

It was almost the proverbial happily ever after. But bearing the brunt of the financial crisis when you have a 380-kilogram bear (600 pounds) to feed is no mean feat.

Trisha needs about 25 kilograms (55 pounds) of food daily, and Aleksandr cannot afford that any longer.

Some student organizations have donated food, but it is nowhere near enough.

“We have had some people bring some food. But Trisha is growing, and she needs a bigger home – one I cannot afford to build. My dream is that someone, some organization, would sponsor Trisha to help take care of her. I mean, she is a bear – that is almost a national symbol in Russia,” Aleksandr says.

Despite the tough times, Aleksandr has not even considered selling his ward. He just says they will all have to grin and bear it somehow. After all, he already saved the animal once – he will find a way to do it again.

Meanwhile, Trisha continues to grow, and she does not understand money. She just knows that she loves her food. And dinner means porridge with jam… every day… with a pint or two of beer on the weekend.