Ice-skating Bear Kills Circus Director
An Animal Rights Article from

October 2009

Training bears to wear and use ice skates and even play ice hockey is a standard stunt for the Russian circus.

One person was killed and another injured on Thursday when a bear rehearsing a "bears on ice" show attacked his handlers at a circus in the Central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan, circus officials said.

The five-year-old bear, part of a troupe of the prestigious Russian state circus, attacked and killed a director of the visiting circus during rehearsals in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek.

"The incident occurred during a rehearsal by the Russian state circus company troupe which was performing in Bishkek with the program, Bears on Ice," Bishkek State Circus Company director Kurmangazy Isanayev told reporters.

The bear, who was wearing ice-skates when the incident occurred, attacked 25-year-old circus director Dmitry Potapov, dragging him across the ice rink by his neck and nearly severing one of his legs before relenting.

It was unclear what caused the bear to attack Mr Potapov, who died at the scene from his injuries under the care of medical personnel, he said.

A 29-year-old circus employee who attempted to rescue Mr Potapov while he was being mauled was also severely injured during the attack, doctor Gulnara Tashibekova told reporters.

"The victim has sustained serious injuries - deep scalp lacerations, bruising of the brain, lacerations on his body. His condition is considered critical," she said.

The bear was later shot and killed by local police, Mr Isanayev said.

The circus, located in the heart of the capital, has been cordoned off by police and emergency service workers and experts have been brought in to examine the animal.

The incident was not the first time a visiting Russian bear was involved in a deadly attack in Kyrgyzstan.

In 2002 a bear on loan from Russia to the Bishkek city zoo attacked and killed a small child who had reached out to pet it.

In that incident, local experts blamed the animal's aggressive behavior on its severe malnourishment.

Bear attacks on people and livestock are common in the vast, sparsely inhabited regions of the former Soviet Union.

But deadly attacks are surprisingly rare in the popular circuses, which often use trained bears for comedic effect.

Training bears to wear and use ice skates and even play ice hockey is a standard stunt for the Russian circus.

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