Inside the world's saddest zoo: Shocking pictures show starving bears and lions who are forced to live off slaughterhouse scraps after being abandoned by Armenian oligarch
- Lions, bears and guinea pigs display all the signs of creatures slowly being driven mad by their unnatural existence
- Animals were bought on a whim by a billionaire Armenian oligarch to parade for his friends at jungle-themed parties
- But they were left to rot after their owner vanished and now survive on scraps fed to them by an elderly couple
Banging their heads against the wall in despair and peering forlornly through the bars of their godforsaken cages, these are the inmates of the world's saddest zoo.
The planet's worst animal park is probably also its smallest.
Just three lions, two bears and two guinea pigs live out their boring, hunger-filled days in tiny cages, displaying all the signs of creatures slowly being driven mad by their unnatural existence.
They are the residue of a billionaire's whim, bought as entertainment by an Armenian oligarch to underwrite his ego and parade before his friends in themed jungle parties.
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Left to rot: One of the starving bears who has been abandoned inside the world's worst zoo once owned by an Armenian oligarch who bought them as entertainment to parade before his friends in themed jungle parties before vanishing while reportedly fleeing mobsters
One of the lions bangs his head against his cage wall, displaying all the signs of a creature being driven mad by their unnatural existence
Malnourished: The zoo is in the Armenian town of Gyumri – but it has been over two years since it saw a paying guest
But the parties, along with the cash to care for the poor beasts, vanished at the same time as their owner.
Now the animals scrape along on a starvation diet of slaughterhouse scraps and scavenged woodland plants brought to them by an elderly couple fighting hard to keep them alive.
The zoo is in the Armenian town of Gyumri – the place where the family of Armenian-American reality stars the Kardashians hails from – but it has been over two years since it saw a paying guest.
The ragged, hungry and bewildered tenants – lioness Mary, seven, and her cubs Geeta, four, and Zita, two, along with bears Masha, four, and Grisha, nine – are cared for by an elderly couple who simply stumbled upon them one day.
Sad sight: A bear stares forlornly through the bars of its tiny cage in the desperate hope food may eventually come its way
Forlorn: The ragged, hungry and bewildered tenants – lioness Mary, seven, and her cubs Geeta, four, and Zita, two, along with bears Masha, four, and Grisha, nine – are cared for by an elderly couple who simply stumbled upon them one day
Starving: The animals scrape along on a diet of slaughterhouse scraps brought to them by an elderly couple fighting to keep them alive
In Limbo: The civic authorities refuse to take on any responsibility for the animal and the whereabouts of their former owner is unknown
Occasionally a vet may pop in to examine the animals from outside the cages. But no-one has any money to pay for a proper examination
Desperate for scraps: The animals are looked after by an elderly couple who barely have enough money for themselves
The civic authorities refuse to take on any responsibility for them and the whereabouts of their former owner is unknown.
It is left to a dirt-poor pair of pensioners named Hovhamnes and Alvina Madoyan to care for them.
Hovhamnes said: 'I lost my job. I had nothing, my wife and I were walking by the deserted zoo when we heard these terrible cries of animals in torment.
'We came in to see the lioness and her cub literally frothing at the mouths from lack of water.
'My wife and I can't bear to see God's creatures in pain. We fetched water from them and then organised some meat from a local slaughterman.
'That is how we scrape by, feeding them what we can muster. It is the same for the bears. We moved into an old shed near the lion enclosure to be near to them five months ago.'
A bear reaches out to grab a fish held by two pensioners who have taken it upon themselves to feed the starving animals
'God's creatures in pain': Pensioners Hovhamnes and Alvina Madoyan try their best to care for the animals after they were abandoned
He added: 'They are sad and lonely and, when they can be bothered, pace up and down their cages, showing the signs of being driven mad by boredom and inactivity.
'We cannot get anyone to help them. The previous owner was stuck in some kind of feud with local mobsters, the government doesn't want to get involved and it is the animals who suffer.'
His wife Alvina went on: 'I get up every morning and go into the woods to find food for the bears, but it is never enough.
'If I am lucky, some people donate some oats and cereal which we can make into a kind of porridge for them.
'They are deeply unhappy, spending hours swaying to and fro, to and fro, because they have been slowly driven mad by their incarceration.
'Last week, we were lucky to have been given the body of a baby foal to feed to the lions. It is not often they get a feast that big.'
Ramshackle: Pensioners Hovhamnes and Alvina Madoyan outside the zoo in the Armenian town of Gyumri
Life in danger: There are fears that the harsh winter might prove lethal for the lion cubs at the zoo in Armenia
Once in a while, a vet might pop in to examine the animals from outside the cages. But no-one has any money to pay for a proper examination.
Sussex-based animal welfare group International Animal Rescue are trying to raise awareness of the zoo's plight in the hope action will be taken by the authorities in Armenia, but the group is not raising funds themselves.
The group, which has animal sanctuaries for endangered orangutans in Borneo, is concerned that a harsh winter might prove lethal for the lion cubs.
A spokesman said: 'The fate of these animals should not be dependent on the philanthropy of an elderly couple who barely have enough for themselves.
'They endure in terrible conditions. We need to try to get enough money for them to be moved to a place where they can be better cared for.'
For more information on the rescue effort or to enquire about donating, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org