We first found Kira and Big Mama nine months ago, and started preparations for
the flight three weeks ago. Finally, all the hard work paid off as Kira and Big
Mama are finally in a sanctuary.
MEA had offered to fly the bears for free, but unfortunately their planes which went to Turkey for the next couple weeks were not big enough to safely accommodate the bears so we had to keep searching for an airline to fly them.
Emirates agreed to fly them from Beirut to Turkey via Dubai, and sponsored 40% of the cost. Jean Kreiker of Emirates SkyCargo helped make sure all of the paperwork was in order in the days leading up to the flight, and he was kind enough meet us at midnight to help make sure everything went smoothly even though he was not scheduled to work.
Kira and Big Mama had became fully awake by then, and they seemed as surprised as we were that they were finally out of the zoo. After a few last treats and some water, we said our goodbyes as the crates were driven away to be loaded on the plane.
In Dubai some caring volunteers were able to make sure they were fine at the airport and gave them each some water and to see them on the next part of their trip. Dr. Huseyin called us the next afternoon to say they had arrived safely to Turkey and were on their way to the sanctuary.
Kira and Big Mama arrived to the sanctuary that night and were released into a temporary quarantine enclosure. Big Mama ran straight out of her crate and climbed into the pool. Kira has already started to make friends with some of the 50 other bears at the sanctuary as they watch each other through the fence. In a couple weeks, after they have had a chance to settle in, they will be introduced to other bears and finally get to enjoy the large forest waiting for them.
Thank you to Emirates and MEA, all of the organizations and individuals who helped along the way, the Animals Lebanon supporters who helped make this possible, and especially to the Karakabey sanctuary for giving Kira and Big Mama their first opportunity to be bears.
Stay tuned as we travel to Turkey to be there when Kira and Big Mama are released into the forested enclosure!