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9 Jul, 2007 19:19

Retirement home for circus animals opens in Russia

Old circus animals are getting the chance to spend the remainder of their days at a specially built retirement home in Russia’s Far East Primorsky region. Certain residents boast an illustrious past starring in some of Russia’s favourite blockbuster films

It all started as a rehabilitation centre for wounded animals that came from all over Russia’s Far East. But then it turned to a care house for the circus animals that could no longer entertain the public due to their age or bad health.  

Kashtan, a 52-year-old brown bear, starred in a major hit at the Soviet box office – The Elusive Avengers – some 40 years ago. His stunts made him a sellout in circuses for decades. Now he lives in the centre.

“Some cases are particularly complicated, the animals are old. Kashtan, for example, he had a gastric ulcer, just because of his age. He gets a specially prepared wheat cream and honey. He cannot eat garden currants or oranges and so on. We make out a special diet for each of our bears,” Vladimir Vaganov, the director of centre, says.

The residents are used to people and, unlike at the zoos, visitors are allowed to feed them.

For some of the centre employees it has changed their lives. Vera Blish decided to quit her career as a bear-tamer and start taking care of them instead.

Most circus animals in Russia are put down when they are unable to continue performing and entertaining the crowds.
The centre’s founder and director believes a law should be created that would oblige tamers and circuses to take care of retired performing animals.