Man Tries to Smuggle Bear out of Russia

April 7, 2011 Updated: April 8, 2011

Russian customs officials stopped a Ukrainian man from transporting an elderly and endangered female bear across the border into the Ukraine.

The man was hiding the bear under a blanket between two seats of his van, but did not declare the bear and had no documentation for her, reports the Telegraph.

The man said he was a circus performer and had been in the Moscow area with his bear, and was now heading home to Yevpatoria, in the Crimea. He told officials that he and now retired "Kesha" used to travel the world performing. He said he treats her like a member of the family and never travels without her, according to the BBC.

Customs official at the border town of Belgorod determined the bear was a Syrian brown bear, an endangered species.

A photo seen by the Telegraph reportedly showed a relatively small and thin bear.

The bear's fate is undecided. Authorities may place her in a local zoo, as it has been done in previous cases of smuggling.

Russian circuses continue to use bears to entertain and often teach them to perform tricks on ice-skates.