A spectacled bear who had been brutally beaten has been given a second chance at life by Bolivian environmental authorities.
The bear will soon be on his way to an enclosure at a wildlife refuge on the outskirts of La Paz. Environmental authorities there expect he will be healthy enough to be moved to his new home within the next two weeks.
The bear, nicknamed Ajayu, was rescued in late January after it was beaten with sticks and stones by residents in Tiraque, a town about 250 miles southeast of the capital.
Ajayu — which means “soul” or “spirit” — was left for dead.
The residents justified the attack by saying the bear tried to attack a child in the city, according to the city-run La Paz news agency.
Ajayu lost his right eye in the brutal attack. While examining his left eye, specialists at the Bolivian National Institute of Ophthalmology detected a cataract that needed to be removed.
La Paz zoo manager Andrea Morales told the La Paz news agency that the cataract surgery was so delicate, experts from the UK and Mexico were in the surgery room via Skype guiding the teams. Currently the bear is recovering and can only see lights and shadows.
Since being rescued, veterinarians, biologists and ophthalmologists have been working on the bear round the clock to heal his wounds and minimize his pain.
According to an initial assessment by zookeepers, he was in critical condition when he arrived, weighing only 55 pounds. A bear of his age should weigh around 150-200 pounds.
Zookeepers now report that he has been gradually gaining confidence and his behavior has improved. He is noticeably less stressed and is showing more tolerance to human presence. His appetite has increased, and he has been eating fruits, yogurt, honey and oats. He has also gained some 33 pounds.
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According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the spectacled bear is South America’s only bear species and one of the most emblematic mammals of the tropical Andes.
Bolivia doesn’t keep an official tally of the number of bears in the country, but the WWF estimates that between 6,000 and 10,000 bears live in the northern Andes.
By Marilia Brocchetto – edition.cnn.com