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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bears Sweating Out the Visitors

MTMisha taking a dip at the Moscow Zoo. Zookeepers said it is not the heat but the visitors who pose a threat to the animals.
Just like Misha the brown bear who swims in his pool to keep cool, most of the animals at the Moscow Zoo beat the heat by staying in the shade, in the water or inside. But unfortunately they cannot hide from people -- the biggest cause of injury, suffering, disease and even death at the zoo.

"It is hard on people who walk in the center of the city surrounded by cement and asphalt in the heat, but not on the animals in the zoo," Moscow Zoo spokeswoman Yelena Mindosa said Thursday.

All the animals are able to get out of the sun and many have pools, such as Misha, who shares his home with she-bear Masha. Misha swims to fish -- the pool is occasionally stocked -- or when it is hot, Mindosa said. "What animals really suffer from is people," she said.

Despite signs on each cage saying "Please, don't feed the animals. Save their lives," visitors try to share their hot dogs, popcorn, ice cream or whatever they have with the animals, often making them sick, she said.

"We have birds dying all the time because they eat rolls that people throw into the pond," Mindosa said. "Birds just can't process this food and they die."

The zoo does not have the staff to physically stop everyone from feeding the animals, and there are no laws that would make it possible to take measures against those who do, she said.

Visitors also throw things other than food. Just two weeks ago someone threw a bottle into the dophins' pool, hitting one on the head, she said. The zoo's veterinarians treated the dolphin for several days before it was allowed to go back into the pool.

"Food is one thing. I understand that children often want to share their food out of sympathy with the animals. But I can't understand when bottles are thrown at the poor animals. People who do this are not human," Mindosa said.

Mindosa said that a few years ago a walrus died after someone threw a wire into his pond. The walrus ate it, as it is natural for walruses to eat everything they find. Four years ago, someone hit a crocodile on the forehead with a bottle, and it was a miracle that the doctors saved him, she said.

Divers periodically clean the zoo's pools and ponds and retrieve things from the bottom, including toys, wire and, above all, bottles.