After Abuse In A Peruvian Circus, A Bear Awaits A New Home

Mar 27, 2015
Originally published on March 27, 2015 9:59 pm

In Peru, a beleaguered bear is looking for a new home.

And the former circus animal is getting high-profile help from Michael Bond, the British author of the well-loved children's books about Paddington bear.

The tale of Cholita, an Andean spectacled bear like the fictional Paddington, is less the stuff of children's books and more of horror films.

While Cholita was in the circus, her trainer had her teeth smashed out and paws partially amputated to remove her claws and make her less dangerous. Because of all the trauma, she's also lost all her fur.

"It is such a horrendous story," Bond told The Daily Mail. "I very much hope that ... Cholita will get the care she needs to recover."

Jan Creamer, the head of Animal Defenders International, a group based in Britain, says Cholita was removed from the circus by Peruvian authorities about 10 years ago, but they have been unable to find her a permanent home.

"No zoo will take her because they regard her as ugly," Creamer said by phone from Colombia. "She is the sweetest bear. She is actually quite small. So she has probably been badly fed as a baby and she never really grew properly."

ADI has been working with authorities in Peru and other Latin American nations to stop wild animals from being used in circuses.

Creamer has been participating in what is being billed as the largest ever rescue and enforcement operation of wild animals being used in circuses. Working with local authorities, dozens of animals have been seized.

Next month, ADI will be bringing some 33 former circus lions, monkeys and other species found in the raids to a sanctuary in Colorado and hopes Cholita will be on that flight. But it is still waiting for approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Cholita needs special authorization because she is an endangered species.

"We are going to go and collect her on Tuesday ... and now all we need is the United States to say 'yes,' " Creamer told NPR.

Fish and Wildlife authorities told NPR that "they received the application and are processing it in order to expedite the request."

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In Peru there is a bear looking for a new home. If Paddington comes to mind, there's actually a connection. The creator of the character has gotten behind a campaign to help this bear. She's called Cholita. She's a former circus bear horribly mutilated while in captivity. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro has the story.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: To make sure Cholita couldn't defend herself while she was in the circus, her trainer had her teeth smashed out and her paws were partially amputated to remove her claws. Now because of all that trauma, she's also lost all her fur. Paddington creator, Michael Bond, has been quoted in the British press as backing the campaign to save Cholita. But Cholita's story is less the stuff of children's books and more of horror films.

JAN CREAMER: She will die alone where she is if we don't take her.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Jan Creamer, the head of the group Animal Defenders International. She says Cholita, an endangered Andean bear, was removed by Peruvian authorities about 10 years ago from the circus where she was abused. They've been looking for a home for her ever since.

CREAMER: And they haven't been able to find a permanent home. No zoo will take her because they regard her as ugly. She is the sweetest bear. She's actually quite small, so she's probably been badly fed as a baby, and she never really grew properly.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: The group ADI has been working with authorities in Peru and other Latin American nations to stop wild animals from being used in circuses. Their investigations and campaigning work has led to bans in countries across the region. Creamer herself, who spoke to us from Columbia, has been taking part in what is being billed as the largest-ever rescue and enforcement operation of wild animals being used in circuses. Working with local authorities, dozens of animals have been seized in raids. Next month ADI will be bringing some of the 33 former circus lions, monkeys and other species found in the raids to a sanctuary in Colorado. And they very much hope Cholita will be on that flight. But they're still waiting for approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She needs special authorization as she is from an endangered species.

CREAMER: We're going to go collect her on Tuesday, and now all we need is the United States to say yes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: NPR contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife authorities, who said they received the application and are processing it in order to expedite the request. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Rio de Janeiro.

CORNISH: And you can see pictures of Cholita at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.