Three bears from A Grizzly Experience will be featured at this year’s 50th State Fair.
Dexter Osborn, owner and trainer, says the traveling show helps educate the public. “We travel all throughout the country teaching people how to be safe in bear country, what to do if you encounter a bear in the wild, and giving everybody an up-close, personal look at these beautiful animals,” he said.
The State Dept. of Agriculture issued a permit allowing the bears to come into the state. The permit includes conditions requiring animals to be “safeguarded in locked cages and secured in an approved enclosure.”
The company must also have a qualified marksman available at all times with special equipment like a tranquilizer gun and darts.
“We also have perimeter fencing that prohibits the general public from getting hands all up our animals,” Osborn said. “There is no hands-on with the animals with the general public, just myself.”
So what do animal welfare groups think about this type of traveling show?
“We don’t believe that wild animals should be used as entertainment in shows like this,” said Mary Steiner, a policy advocate at the Hawaiian Humane Society. “They are not entertainment and they are truly wild and they should be respected and maintained in their environments.”
This isn’t the first time wild animals have traveled to Hawaii.
In 1994, an elephant named Tyke killed its trainer during a circus performance at the Blaisdell Arena and escaped. It was later shot and killed by police.
In 2012, the 50th State Fair brought in a rare African lion. In 2011, they brought in ostriches.
“I think it’s a great idea. Our children in Hawaii need to be exposed to the wilderness and to livestock and stuff like that. And grizzly bears, it’s a wonderful idea,” said Mavis Chong.
“It’s not safe. Like, it’s cool, but it’s not safe,” said Tiani Naholowaa.
E.K. Fernandez declined to comment for this story. In a news release sent out last month, the company says fairgoers can look forward to up-close encounters with trained animals during A Grizzly Experience as part of this year’s theme, “Go Wild.”