Un-bear-able? Russia food ban hits Moscow zoo’s picky bears

Russia's drastic ban on food imports from Europe has claimed it first victims -- the rather choosy animals at Moscow zoo

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Russia’s drastic ban on food imports from Europe has claimed its first victims - the rather choosy animals at Moscow zoo.

Keepers at the zoo, one of Europe’s oldest, are scrambling to adjust the menus for its animals, which rely heavily on Dutch vegetables and Polish apples.

“Almost all the animals eat fruits and vegetables except for those who eat fish,” said Moscow Zoo spokeswoman Anna Kachurovskaya.

“Those who eat fish are also in trouble because fish is also embargoed.”

With fears of rising food prices hitting poor Russians, the animals have also been caught in the crossfire of the tit-for-tat sanctions war with the West over Russian involvement in Ukraine.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday announced the embargo on most food imports from the EU, the United States and several other countries in a measure that includes beef, pork, fruit and vegetable produce, poultry, fish, cheese, milk and dairy products.

The zoo will now have to find new suppliers, in particular for celery and apples, and said it is very concerned about feeding the animals in the winter when Russian produce is not as readily available.

Russian officials have voiced confidence that new suppliers for most imported products can be found, although certain items may be difficult to replace quickly.

Apples are a particular favorite of the zoo’s bears, an animal synonymous with Russia that for many symbolises the country’s virility and independence.

“So the bear eats apples. It used to eat Polish apples, now it will have to eat Russian ones,” Kachurovskaya said. “That is not the problem, the problem is we are uncertain about what we will have to confront in the winter.”

“In general we use imported products for the animals for a variety of reasons, including their preferences as well as cost,” Kachurovskaya said.

“We are looking at what we can do, but it is not going to be easy.”

The zoo, a sprawling grounds in the Moscow city center which has more than 150 wild animals, celebrates its 150th anniversary this year.

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