The last three known “dancing bears” in Europe went into retirement this week, ending a centuries-old Gypsy tradition. Misho, Svetla, and Mima were led away by the Four Paws rescue organization while their owner cried. “How would I live without my bears?” said Velichka Staneva. “We love each other.” Bulgaria outlawed dancing bears in 1993, though enforcement has been spotty. To teach bears to “dance,” trainers force cubs to walk on burning embers, to the sound of drums. Eventually, the drum sound is enough to get them to hop around. The practice survives in Serbia, Russia, and Ukraine, but all of the European Union’s surviving bears are now believed to be living in a sanctuary. “Our aim is to make their life more bearable in their remaining years,” said Four Paws’ Ioana Tomescu.
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