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Azerbaijani Government Crackdown Follows Bear Video

A caged bear in Azerbaijan's Shamakhi district
A caged bear in Azerbaijan's Shamakhi district
After a video shot by RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service was posted on its website, bears kept in cages in two restaurants in Azerbaijan were transferred to a government rehabilitation center.

On November 5, an RFE/RL correspondent, traveled to a restaurant in Shamakhi, a town about 150 kilometers outside of Baku, and interviewed a worker in another restaurant that also kept a caged bear as entertainment.

The worker said the bear, named Misha, had been kept at the restaurant since 2001 and had been obtained from a local zoo. Apparently, they fed the bear leftovers from the restaurant -- fruit, bread, as well as soft drinks -- and sprayed him with a garden hose once a week. They claimed they had all the necessary papers for the bear and were breaking no laws.

After the video was posted on RFE/RL's website, Azerbaijan's Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Interior Ministry, and Tax Ministry conducted raids on two restaurants, confiscating two bears, the one in Shemakhi and another in Pirshagi, and placing them in an Environment Ministry rehabilitation center.

Additionally, on November 8, following further government raids, an eagle, two wolves, a squirrel, and two muymuls, a type of hawk, were confiscated from restaurants and placed in a local national park.

Unfortunately, the bear caged at a restaurant in Qabala, which brought to light this whole scandal, died after being mistreated. An RFE/RL correspondent reported seeing a bearskin at a restaurant in Qabala as well as bear meat being sold in Qabala restaurants. The reporter was not able to confirm if they were from the dead bear.

Azer Qarayev, head of Azerbaijan's Society for the Protection of Animals, says that many animals are kept as entertainment in restaurants in remote Azerbaijani villages and even in the capital, Baku, and that this is highly damaging to Azerbaijan's international image.

-- Ashley Cleek

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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