Fact Check

Video Shows Bear Still Circling in Imaginary Cage After Being Released?

Ina was said to have been held in captivity for decades.

Published Feb. 21, 2024

 (Millions of Friends)
Image Via Millions of Friends
Claim:
A video shared on social media genuinely showed a once-captive bear that continued to walk in a circle shaped like its former pen even after it was released.
Context

In the years since Ina was rescued, the bear was rehabilitated by sanctuary workers, and as of this publication she no longer regularly paces.

A once-captive bear named Ina has appeared in social media posts since at least 2021, showing her consistently walk in a circle around a well-worn path even after having been released from the captivity of her former zoo pen.

Iterations of the video have been shared across platforms, including on YouTube, Reddit, and X (formerly Twitter), such as the post below, which had received more than 6.4 million views at the time of this publication:

A Google search for the keywords "bear walks in circle" returned an article published by the Romanian news outlet Romania Journal on Jan. 18, 2021. It reported that the bear was housed at the nonprofit animal sanctuary Millions of Friends in Zarnesti, Romania

Snopes contacted sanctuary founder Cristina Lapis, who confirmed that this claim is true. 

On the Romanian organization's website, Ina is listed as a resident bear, with a description that reads:

For 20 years Ina had only half of a swimming pool, half of a shelter and half of a walking space. At the zoo in Piatra Neamt she lived only half of a life – literally and figuratively. She shared the same pen with her sister, Anca. However, the pen was provided with just one pool of water, one den and one "walking" area… for 2 bears. … In October 2014, AMP managed to bring her to the sanctuary in Zarnesti. Now she has trees, a pool and den, all just for her.

The video in question was originally posted to the sanctuary's Facebook account on Jan. 13, 2021, (archived here) with a caption translated to English that read: 

When you go to a zoo that has tiny spaces for animals, remember the moves of Ina! Her mind remained trapped in an imaginary cage, the same one that held her captive for 20 years. This is the image of trauma that sometimes never heal and never forget!

Below is how the video originally appeared:

In a phone interview, Lapis told Snopes she had rescued more than 100 bears throughout the years, many of whom had been held in small pens and to this day "remain in their mental cage" even after arriving at the 200-acre property. 

"It's different for every bear, like for any human being who spent 20 years in prison; some of them can move on, while others, they don't forget. This is a trauma," Lapis said. 

Research indicates that, like humans, animals may experience post-traumatic stress disorder that can be caused by a variety of stressors and may result in long-term consequences, including reliving the trauma.

Ina continued to circle at the sanctuary for about six months, and she would only walk forward. Sanctuary staff placed a stone in the path to block her pattern, and eventually Ina began to break the habit of walking in circles. 

Though sometimes Ina falls back into her circling routine, as of this publication, Lapis said the bear is happiest in the forest with other resident bears. 

"Ina is the story that is known," said Lapis, adding that there are more captive bears that need help. "Indifference can kill."

Sources

Abused Zoo Bear Still Circles In Imaginary Cage 7 Years After Being Freed. www.youtube.com, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=keI4oOvxmB0. Accessed 20 Feb. 2024.

Bear Walks in Circle - Google Search. https://www.google.com/search?q=bear+walks+in+circle&oq=bear+&gs_lcrp=EgZjaHJvbWUqBggAEEUYOzIGCAAQRRg7MgYIARBFGDsyBggCEEUYOzIGCAMQRRg5MgYIBBBFGEAyBggFEEUYPTIGCAYQRRg8MgYIBxBFGD3SAQgxMTQwajBqOagCALACAA&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8#ip=1. Accessed 20 Feb. 2024.

Deslauriers, Jessica, et al. "Current Status of Animal Models of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Behavioral and Biological Phenotypes, and Future Challenges in Improving Translation." Biological Psychiatry, vol. 83, no. 10, May 2018, pp. 895–907. ScienceDirect, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2017.11.019.

Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/Bear.Sanctuary/posts/pfbid06y4w6WhXdx9zttKpW7f2D1zNhpakaJwjYViuTA6YCuqjiwujLFcbQSRShEwzVZoil. Accessed 20 Feb. 2024.

Goswami, Sonal, et al. "Animal Models of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Face Validity." Frontiers in Neuroscience, vol. 7, May 2013, p. 89. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2013.00089.

"Https://Twitter.Com/TheWeirdWorld/Status/1754393051039244760." X (Formerly Twitter), https://twitter.com/TheWeirdWorld/status/1754393051039244760. Accessed 20 Feb. 2024.

https://m.facebook.com/The-Lab-114802393726584/videos/why-is-this-bear-walking-in-circles-even-though-he-has-all-of-this-land-to-roam-/197069318833224/. Accessed 20 Feb. 2024.

Salceanu, Diana. "The Trauma of Living in Captivity: She-Bear Spinning in Circles Although It's Free." The Romania Journal, 18 Jan. 2021, https://www.romaniajournal.ro/society-people/the-trauma-of-living-in-captivity-she-bear-spinning-in-circles-although-its-free/.

Titei, Laurentiu. "Ina." Asociația Milioane de Prieteni, https://millionsoffriends.org/en/adopt/bears/ina/. Accessed 20 Feb. 2024.

"World Small Animal Veterinary Association Congress Proceedings, 2018." VIN.Com, Sept. 2017, http://www.vin.com/doc/?id=8896463.

Madison Dapcevich is a freelance contributor for Snopes.