Since 2004, it is forbidden for private persons in Slovenia to keep bears that were taken from the wild. Owners of bears that were obtained before 2004 and that could not be released back into the wild, could get approval from the competent Ministry to keep those individuals. That is why even today, years after the introduction of the legislation, 5 bears still suffer in small cages in Slovenia in private hands.
In line with our goal to end the illegal and inappropriate keeping of brown bears in Southeast Europe, in 2022 FOUR PAWS assessed the living conditions of the remaining privately kept bears in Slovenia. The findings were shocking: All bears are being kept in small concrete cages without access to species-appropriate food or care. They show strong stereotypical behaviour, which is caused by boredom and stress; and they have few possibilities if any to hide from visitors. None of the bears have access to enrichment to encourage their natural behaviours, keep them occupied, and stimulate their playfulness and curiosity. Some do not even have the possibility to bathe or climb. And what’s more – two bears need urgent medical treatment!
We want to end the suffering of these bears, but as the keepings are legal, we need cooperation from the bears' owners and support from the respective authorities. Therefore, FOUR PAWS has approached the Slovenian Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Food and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Spatial Planning to work together on a phase-out plan to expedite an end to the private keeping of bears in Slovenia. Although we offered both ministries support with the intake, life-long care, and medical treatment of confiscated or voluntarily surrendered Slovenian bears to our bear sanctuaries, the authorities have so far made no move to facilitate bear rescues.
A prisoner for 20+ years
A lifetime on concrete
High stress in a small space
Needs urgent medical treatment
FOUR PAWS approaches representatives of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Spatial Planning to address the welfare problems of the last five privately kept bears again. Additionally, FOUR PAWS renews its offer to support improvements for the bears and placement of the bears in FOUR PAWS sanctuaries. There the bears can finally get the chance to get species-appropriate care for the rest of their lives.
After a year of continued suffering for the five bears, the ongoing exchange and joint assessment with representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food have unfortunately still not led to any improvements for the bears. The Ministry seems to have let go of their initial motivation to help the bears and instead refers FOUR PAWS to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Spatial Planning. Unfortunately, previous attempts to involve representatives of this Ministry in the assessment have not led to any response.
A veterinary report from the joint assessment was shared with the authorities. For all bears the recommendation by the wildlife veterinarian is similar: The bears currently suffer in inappropriate conditions, lack proper care and show physical damage and psychological behaviour disorders. They should be translocated as soon as possible to species-appropriate facilities.
Quote from report on bear Mici: “In summary, I would highly recommend translocating the animal to an adequate, species-appropriate keeping facility to prevent further physical and psychological damage for animal welfare reasons.”
Joint assessment visit of the five bears with the experienced wildlife veterinarian and representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food. All participants of the assessment visit confirm the previous conclusion that the bears suffer and are in need of urgent help.
October & February 2023
After constructive conversations with representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food, the authorities agreed on a joint visit to assess the living and keeping conditions of the bears, together with an experienced wildlife veterinarian. Based on this assessment, written recommendations were planned to be provided by the wildlife veterinarian for each individual bear with the goal to improve their welfare.
FOUR PAWS conducted an assessment of the living and keeping conditions of the five last remaining bears in private captivity in Slovenia and found out that the animals are suffering in inappropriate conditions. As a next step, FOUR PAWS approached the Slovenian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food, which is responsible for the welfare of captive bears in Slovenia. FOUR PAWS offered to work on a phase-out plan together with the Ministry to expedite an end to the private keeping of bears in Slovenia.