Meet Balkiz, a bear cub in Turkey who got high on hallucinogenic honey

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Like a real Winnie the Pooh, a brown bear in Turkey wolfed down some honey last week. But unlike the beloved children’s book character, the little one rode as high as a kite on the sweet golden treat.

The reason? It was hallucinogenic ‘crazy honey’, known in Turkish as ‘deli bal’.

Turkey Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry said the young bear was rescued on Thursday after being found unconscious in the country’s northwest Duzce province, about 210km east of Istanbul. Apart from the bad trip, the female was in good condition following a visit to a veterinary care center.

Somehow the bear got its paw on an excessive amount of charcuterie, which has been cultivated by beekeepers in the Black Sea and Himalayan region for centuries. The substance – also known as bitter honey for its pungent taste – is the result of bees feeding on pollen from rhododendron flowers. The brightly colored plants contain a natural neurotoxin called grayanotoxin which, when consumed, can induce euphoria, hallucinations and intoxication – as the bear quickly learned.

A video shared by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry showed the bear in its fully shelled state. In the back of a pickup truck, she was sitting face down with her limbs stretched out in what can best be described as a vertical sploot. His mouth was slightly open. His eyes widened. For a few seconds, she squirmed, dazed and confused.

The clip quickly turned the little one into a local celebrity. After asking citizens for name ideas, the government agency introduced her on Friday as Balkiz – which means “darling girl” or “darling girl” in Turkish – with a photo showing the now sober bear posing on top of a branch with a half-eaten watermelon on the ground.

Although Balkiz is the latest to suffer from the symptoms of a mad honey binge, she’s not the first to do so. Thousands of poisoning cases have been reported across the world throughout history.

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According to research by the late Texas A&M anthropology professor Vaughn Bryant, one of the earliest records of mad honey came from Xenophon of Athens, who was a student of the philosopher Socrates. The Greek historian wrote that a Greek army fell on the substance in 401 BC as troops were returning from the Black Sea after a victory over the Persians.

“They decided to feast on local honey stolen from nearby hives. A few hours later, the soldiers began to vomit, had diarrhea, became disoriented and could not stand. the next day the effects were gone and they continued on to Greece, Bryant recounted. in a 2014 press release.

Other troops weren’t so lucky. Some 334 years later, Roman soldiers led by Pompey the Great came across a honey trap planted by the Persian army, who “gathered jars full of local honey and left them for Roman troops to find,” Bryant said. “They ate the honey, became disoriented and couldn’t fight. The Persian army returned and killed over 1,000 Roman soldiers with few casualties.

Centuries later, Union troops encountered hallucinogenic honey near Appalachia during the Civil War era. Just like the Greeks and Romans before them, Americans were buzzed and sick, Bryant said.

However, Mad Honey is incredibly hard to come by, the Guardian reported. The rhododendrons that produce the necessary neurotoxins are found in few places and are most prolific in the mountainous regions of the Black Sea and the foothills of the Himalayas. Gatherers must go to great lengths to acquire the red-tinted mud – climbing tall trees and cliffs and often fending off one of the largest bee species in the world. The returns from these risks are, however, significant. A pound of crazy honey can cost nearly $170, Bryant said. In Turkey, a pound of potent, high-quality sausage can sell for up to 2,000 lira, or about $111, making it one of the most expensive honeys in the world, the Guardian noted.

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The price also reflects the medicinal value that some people attribute to bitter-tasting honey. It is often touted as a natural remedy for conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, gastrointestinal disorders, arthritis, and sore throats. Some even use it as an aphrodisiac or as a treatment for erectile dysfunction, according to a 2018 report published in the scientific journal RSC Advances.

But too much honey can land people — and bears — in hospital. Only bees that produce mad honey are immune to the high. For all other animals, the substance may produce disorienting effects, although these usually last less than 24 hours.

On Friday, Balkiz was released into the nearby forests of the Balkans – a region whose name translates to “Land of Honey and Blood”.

“Hello to the beautiful girl who has conquered the hearts of all of us,” Turkish Agriculture and Forestry Minister Vahit Kirisci wrote on Twitter. An accompanying video showed the little brunette frolicking on a grassy hill.

“May she eat everything in moderation, even honey,” Kirisci added.