Some of you may not know this, but Ukraine has a bit of a problem with drunk bears. They call them "vodka bears" because they were given vodka and forced to dance as a means of entertainment at local hotels and restaurants. Last August, efforts were made to stop the practice, but now I guess they have a new problem: What do we do with all these hungover dancing vodka bears?
In a few weeks, the recovering "vodka bears"-who were once forced to drink moonshine for public amusement-will be released into the neighboring forest, a nearly 30-acre swath of firs and spruces interspersed with snow and rocks and cordoned off by a chain-link fence. They will be the first to graduate from the first bear-rehabilitation center in Ukraine, at the Synevir Nature Preserve. "This is where the bears will become bears again," says Yuri Tyukh, Synevir's vice director.
It seems that Ukraine's role as co-host of Euro 2012 has expedited the process a bit, for obvious reasons. Much of the world is reporting on and watching the tournament so tourism has boomed.
"If a foreigner comes here and sees a bear in a bar being treated terribly, it's very bad for the country's image," Tyukh says. "Then, before long, we'll have to worry about Greenpeace, the WWF-all these people and what they will say about us."
Most people in the former Soviet Union apparently think we Americans are obsessed with bears roaming the streets over there. Honestly? I had no idea, but now I am definitely obsessed.
Ukraine Tries to Sober Up Its Bears for Euro Soccer [Businessweek]