The owner of a struggling safari park in Crimea is giving more than thirty bears to save them from euthanasia.
Oleg Zubkov, the owner of the Taigan Lion Park near Simferopol, said he is seeking new homes for the animals because he can no longer afford to feed them.
It comes after inspectors ordered the safari park, which is famous for its large collection of lions, found violations of veterinary regulations and ordered it closed for three months.
Speaking on his Youtube channel, “the Lion Man,” Mr Zubkov said he could not afford to feed and look after the animals without the revenue from ticket sales and was left with no choice but to find them new homes or put them down.
“Twelve lions and tigers will be moved to other zoos shortly, and a final decision will be made about… shooting 30 bears from the park,” he says in the video.
“I’ve forced into these extreme measures because there are no other options left,” he said.
Mr Zubkov said he had already fed several dozen of his Vietnamese pigs to the lions and tigers in a bid to cut costs, and that he had informed regional veterinary authorities about his decision to cull his bears.
Valery Ivanov, the head of the state veterinary committee in Crimea, told Interfax no documents related to the killing of animals had been received.
The Taigan Safari Park, which is home to 2,500 animals, was opened in 2012. Mr Zubkov also runs a second zoo, called Skazka, in Yalta.
Both have been the subject of numerous complaints about the conditions in which the animals are kept, according to local officials.
Last year Taigan was at the centre of a small scandal after one of the lions bit a 46 year old female tourist posing for photographs with the animal.
Mr Zubkov insists that his bears live in better conditions than in many other zoos in Russia, and that the biting incident was the only one of its kind.
He has complained that authorities have been trying to shut him down ever since Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsular after Vladimir Putin annexed it from Ukraine in 2014.
Mr Zubkov was an enthusiastic supporter the annexation at the time, and even featured in Russian television reports promising that his “fighting lions” would maintain order during the controversial referendum on “reunification” with Russia.
In the months afterwards he made an unsuccessful bid to enter local politics and even tried to call Vladimir Putin during his annual phone-in show to invite him to the safari park.
But by 2015 he had begun to complain that he and his zoo had become the target of a campaign of harassment by local officials apparently determined to put him out of business.