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Bern to keep its bears for another 100 years

Bern's bears would enjoy more creature comforts in a new park

(Keystone)

The future of one of Switzerland's biggest tourist attractions - the bear pits in Bern - appears to be secure despite strong opposition from animal welfare groups.

On Friday, a working group called for the capital's famous bear pits to be extended, providing a safe haven for the city's bear colony for at least the next 100 years.

The animal is Bern's mascot, and bears have been resident in the city since 1513 when the pits were founded. The pits are a regular stopping-off point for tourists visiting the medieval section of the capital.

In its final report, the group submitted plans for a new bear park consisting of two interconnecting pits, each with an area of at least 2,500 square metres. In addition, the bears and their cubs will have access to the River Aare, where they will be able to catch their own fish and romp on the riverbanks.

The new plans are likely to go some way to appease critics of the current bear pits, who argue that the animals do not have adequate living space and are bored from lack of activity.

But the Bern authorities also hope the new bear park will be a commercial success, attracting even more tourists to the city.

The bear pits were last extended in 1996 at a cost of SFr2 million ($1.21 million).

There are currently five bears living in the pits - Urs, Selma, Pedro, Tana and Delia. Selma won notoriety a year ago when she mauled a drunken doctor from canton Ticino who fell into her den.

swissinfo with agencies


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