There’s New Evidence That Communist Leaders Secretly Airlifted Bears to Bulgaria in the ‘70s and ‘80s

Some of these Bulgarian bears are not genetically like the others…

Photo: WSPA International

Local folklore has it that, back in the Communist years, bears from Romania were packed into crates and flown into Bulgaria. No documents have ever surfaced proving that this happened, according to WildlifeNews. But it is widely believed that Romania's dictatorial leader, Nicolae Ceauseascu—who had an "insatiable thirst for bear blood," as Pacific Standard describes it —shipped the animals to less bear-plentiful neighbors in order "to cement friendships," writes WildlifeNews.   

Now, indirect evidence has emerged to support this rumor. Scientists working in Bulgaria noticed some anomalies in their genetic samples of the local brown bear population. In three different mountainous areas, ScienceNOW reports, a handful of the bears were not like the others. Their genetics matched much more closely with animals sampled in Romania's Carpathian mountains.

Here's ScienceNOW on why the animals probably didn't just walk to Bulgaria from Romania: 

Though they cannot rule out that the bears migrated to Bulgaria naturally, the possibility is unlikely, researchers say. Half of the Carpathian bears found in Bulgaria were female, and although male brown bears may travel hundreds of kilometers from home, females rarely roam so far. Additionally, in two of the three places where the researchers found evidence of Carpathian bears, the animals were located near the government-run enclosures, which are far from the Romanian border. 

So although the researchers cannot rule out natural bear migration with 100 percent certainty, it seems more likely that the bears were indeed imported gifts for fellow hunting enthusiasts—and that a few animals managed to escape Ceauseascu and his cronies' bear lust. 

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