A video of a bear cub being stoned to death by villagers in Iran has sparked horror and prompted police action after it was posted online on June 16.

In the video, taken in a forest in Mazandaran Province in northern Iran, around a dozen men are seen throwing stones at the cub, which appears to be in a state of shock. A woman can be heard calling for the group to stop. Later, some of the men are seen tying a cord around the unconscious bear and dragging it to the side of a road.

The video quickly went viral, and many online users began searching for the perpetrators.

A screenshot from the video.
 
"There are images that I will never forget and that make me ashamed even though I wasn’t there," one Twitter user wrote. "This image of the bear being stoned is one of them. The image of him alone will stay with me forever."
 

Due to the violent nature of the video, the France 24 Observers is only publishing screenshots.

"A woman tried to stop them"

Hor Mansouri, an environmental activist from Mazandaran, spoke with several people who witnessed the scene.

On June 15, a two-year-old bear cub and its mother were wandering near the village of Daraseleh when the cub tumbled down the side of the mountain and ended up on the road. That’s why the bear cub seems to be in a state of shock and doesn’t move in the video.

People started to gather around and attack the cub. They wanted to take the body but the woman you hear in the video and a few others stopped them. Some of the locals also called forest rangers to come and help the cub. It was still alive when they arrived. They brought it to Sari, the capital of Mazandaran, but the cub died in the night from hemorrhaging and serious head wounds.

Screenshot from the video

The environment ministry said that two people had been arrested in connection with the attack. Killing a bear is subject to a fine of 50 million tomans, or around 330 euros, but the sentence "will be more severe due to the harm caused by the wide circulation of the video,” a local official said.

Screenshot from the video

“Bears terrify villagers in northern Iran”

Our Observer said that fear of the bear drove the villagers to violence.

A bear is the most terrying animal for people living in villages in northern Iran. People often talk about bears when they've attacked someone or destroyed a farmer’s beehives or killed his chickens. I think that fear of bears is in our DNA. That’s why these villagers acted in such an unreasonable way. People who live in cities have a very different view of animals than those in the countryside who have to deal with bears everyday.

There are two solutions to help people in rural areas who live in proximity to bears and wolves. First, we need to raise awareness about these issues through dynamic workshops, not boring classes at school. Second, and more importantly, we need to make sure that villagers are making a profit from the environment. They need to feel like they have something to gain from protecting animals.

That’s why I think ecotourism could really help the situation. If locals realised that they could make money from bears in the forest, they would treat them better.

This story was written by Ershad Alijani.