A 660-pound bear performing at a Russian circus attacked and mauled its handler as horrified onlookers, many of them children, screamed in terror, Yahoo Entertainment reports. The event was captured on video.
On Thursday, a traveling circus was performing in the Russian town of Olonets, about 110 miles from St. Petersburg. The circus was performing a portion of the act called “Clubfoot and the Garden Wheelbarrow,” in which the bear named Yashka enters the ring pushing a wheelbarrow, walking on his hind legs.
Unfortunately, the act didn’t go according to plan. This time, instead of performing the act, the bear attacked and mauled his trainer, Ruslan Solodyuk. Soldyuk tried to fight off the 660-pound animal, and other performers tried to distract him by kicking Yashka.
Meanwhile, horrified onlookers screamed in terror. What’s more, much of the audience was composed of parents and children, and terrified parents tried valiantly to shield their kids from the rampaging animal. There was no barrier between the animal and the audience, and at one point it looked as if the animal was going to go into the crowd.
Performers were able to subdue the bear with the use of electric stun guns.
The entire event was captured on video, which you can see below. Be warned, however as this video contains content that may be disturbing to some viewers.
“People started to jump up. A panic started. Everyone grabbed their kids and started running,” said a witness.
Solodyuk, who survived the encounter, said that the 16-year old bear had never been aggressive before. He says that the animal, who was on his final tour with the circus due to his age, likely was bothered by joint pain and acted out aggressively because he was hurt.
However, the circus’ manager said that the incident wasn’t caused by an aged and abused circus animal acting out, but by audience members not respecting the rules and using flash photography. The manager also says that both the bear and the human performer are OK.
“The rest of our program does not pose any danger to spectators,” he said.
Meanwhile, Russian authorities are launching a criminal investigation into the incident.
In a companion Yahoo News report, animal rights activist are decrying the treatment of the bear, and indeed, of animals forced to perform in circuses everywhere.
“The tide is turning against these cruel spectacles, so it’s time Russia came to its senses and joined many other countries in banning them,” said Elisa Allen, Director of PETA.