Bear serving a life sentence in human prison alongside 730 dangerous criminals

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A brown bear is serving a life sentence in prison alongside 730 dangerous offenders.

Ekaterina – or Katya – was sent down in Kazakhstan for two separate attacks on people at a campsite where she was previously caged.

The Kostanay “strict regime” penal colony holds criminals, including killers, whose sentences do not exceed 25 years.

But Ekaterina, jailed in 2004, is the only inmate serving a life sentence – and the only prisoner to have a swimming pool in her cell.

Ekaterina in her cell

She was sent to Kostanay aged seven because there was no zoo in the region that could take her

Colony head Aslan Medybayev said: “She is friendly, not aggressive at all. Other prisoners visit her. She woke up a month ago from her hibernation.”

The 22-year-old bear, who is looked after by prisoners, has become the prison’s symbol and a statue has been erected in her honour.

One prisoner Igor Tarakanov, 43, said: “She is calm, not aggressive. She adores sweet things that prisoners give her – sweets, biscuits, apples.

He added: “Of course, communicating with an animal brightens my time here, makes it not so painful.”

The statue of Ekaterina made by prisoners

Mr Medybayev said that Ekaterina had become less threatening as a result of her time at the jail, 435 miles north-west of Kazakhstan’s capital Nursultan, near the country’s border with Russia.

Ekaterina was caged at Belaya Yurta campsite after she was abandoned by a circus trainer as a cub. She mauled a boy who was feeding her and attacked a drunk who tried to shake hands.

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