Crime to prime-time for mistreated Bosnian bear
By Ranko Cukovic
PRIJEDOR, Bosnia (Reuters)
Bosnian bear who fell into the hands of mobsters and almost died from
starvation and solitude travels to a French sanctuary this week for a
life of luxury with two female companions.
Miljen's mother was killed by hunters in 2000, the cub was sold to a
crime boss keen to emulate famous Balkan criminals who see keeping wild
animals as proof of machismo.
the gangster was jailed in 2005 for running a trafficking and
prostitution ring, Miljen was left to the mercy of neighbors, who could
only afford to feed him bread.
He weighed just 70 kg (155 lb) by the time a Serbian film-maker saw him
while shooting footage in the area.
The French animal protection group Respectons and Bosnian
counterpart Noa started a bureaucratic marathon to get the bear
to the sanctuary in Normandy.
"The case of this bear is without precedent," Noa president
Dragomir Mijic told Reuters. "He will enter the European Union as a
Because Bosnia has not signed an international convention on animal
transport, Miljen almost found himself in the same quagmire as his human
compatriots, who have to fill in endless forms and queue for hours to
apply for often-denied EU visas.
Finally his saviors were told they could move him only if medical tests
proved he was in good health. Locals in Prijedor chipped in, and it took
three months of intensive feeding to get the animal to 200 kg and have
the blood tests.
is a big moment," Patrick Sacco, of Respectons, said while
feeding Miljen an apple. "He will, probably for the first, time meet
animals like him, because for eight years he was always alone in his
Miljen starts his journey on Tuesday and is due to
reach his new home later this week. Locals will see him off with an
old-fashioned Bosnian Serb wedding custom, offering the French activists
embroidered towels normally given to wedding guests.
"He will be transported in an air conditioned van with
video surveillance, accompanied by specially trained vets and French TV
crews," Mijic said.
(additional reporting by Mirna Soja; Writing by Daria Sito-Sucic and