Sleeping bears force Polish TV to shift New Year party

Hundreds of protesters marched through Zakopane with a fake bear on a stretcher last week calling for TVP to relocate the event (AFP Photo/Piotr KORCZAK)

Warsaw (AFP) - Do not poke the bear. A Polish TV channel learnt the truth of the saying on Friday, being forced to abandon plans to hold its noisy New Year's Eve party near bear caves.

The TVP station -- which hosts a gala event each New Year featuring concerts and a lot of drinking -- wanted to relocate the party to Poland's most famous ski resort in the Tatra mountains.

But a local newspaper said hibernating bears could be disturbed by the noise, sparking warnings from the Tatra National Park and a petition that was eventually signed by 28,000 people.

TVP chief Jacek Kurski confirmed the event would move back to its previous location in the town of Zakopane, saying New Year's Eve "must unite us, not divide us".

Zakopane officials also confirmed the location switch, saying they were "happy to have managed to convince TVP" to return to the town centre.

Hundreds of protesters marched through Zakopane with a fake bear on a stretcher last week calling for TVP to relocate the event.

The station initially branded the protesters "pseudo-ecologists" and argued that sports events had been held in the area without a problem.

The TV station had originally said moving the event to the mountains would have provided protection from the wind.

But the Tatra National Park had warned that the "noise and flashes made by fireworks and firecrackers trigger anxiety in animals, as well as a search for new spots and in the long term a drop in the birth rate".

The statement added that a bear had died last year after being woken up on New Year's Eve.

An expert from the park confirmed to AFP that there were Carpathian brown bears in the area, though he said precise numbers were not known.