Bears Rescued in Croatia
May 7, 2015 - Last week, after many years behind bars in a cramped zoo enclosure with a concrete floor, two brown bears, 31 year old Mirna and 17 year old Victor, have finally made it to a sanctuary. FOUR PAWS, the international animal welfare organisation transferred them from the municipal zoo in Split to the “Kuterevo” refuge in northern Croatia. FOUR PAWS had already observed the poor living conditions of the two bears for some time; after a change in the city government the animal welfare workers were finally able to transfer the bears. Mirna and Victor first stayed in their adaption boxes in Kuterevo for a while for observation. Yesterday, they finally could be let out into the 5000m² open-air enclosure. For the first time in their lives, the bears now have trees to rub up against, a pool to bathe in, soft earth to burrow in, and sunny meadows to explore and run about in.
Annika Heikamp, biologist and bear expert at FOUR PAWS explained, “At 31 years of age, Mirna is already really a granny bear! Tranquilizing such an old bear is does carry some risk, so we’re really happy that both bears handled the transfer so well. Also, the release into the open-air enclosure went very well: both bears took their time to discover their new surroundings, rubbed against trees and even took a bath in the pool. In the evening they went back to the boxes, to spend the stormy night inside.”
Croatian wild animal veterinarian Professor Djuro Huber from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Zagreb was responsible for tranquilizing and examining the bears during the transfer. FOUR PAWS signed a cooperation agreement with the Kuterevo refuge back in September 2014. The organisation gave financial and technical support for the construction of the new enclosures for Mirna and Victor, and paid for the bears’ transport and medical care.
FOUR PAWS works to bring an end to the private ownership of bears in Croatia.
The Kuterevo bear refuge in Croatia’s Velebit Mountains was originally intended to be a center for protecting and raising orphaned bear cubs. Thanks to the cooperation with FOUR PAWS, the refuge can now also offer a new, species-appropriate home for bears. Another enclosure is already being planned, to accommodate the last bears in private ownership in Croatia. FOUR PAWS research suggests there are still six bears in private hands there: three in unlicensed mini zoos, one with a private individual, and two kept in a cage to attract tourists to a restaurant.