July 19, 2023 – BEAR SANCTUARY Belitsa, which is run by global animal welfare organization FOUR PAWS in cooperation with Fondation Brigitte Bardot near Sofia, temporarily took in a male bear cub that was found wandering around alone near the village of Kostenets last weekend. Despite efforts of forestry officials to bring the bear back to the forest, he kept returning to the village. The cub was captured and is safe now thanks to the cooperation between WWF Bulgaria, local authorities, forestry officials and FOUR PAWS. The bear will soon be transferred to a specialized brown bear rehabilitation center in Greece to be prepared for a later release back into the wild in Bulgaria.
FOUR PAWS was informed about a bear that was found motherless in a backyard in Kostenets and agreed to temporarily take the bear into its care at BEAR SANCTUARY Belitsa. Thanks to a team from WWF Bulgaria, he was safely captured and transported to the sanctuary.
"For a rescue operation like this to go well, a quick response and teamwork are key. We found the bear in a tree and got it down with all safety measures. Although it weighed only a few kilograms, the task was not easy as the frightened animal was trying to bite and scratch. The ground around the tree was completely secured in case it lost its balance and fell. With the rescue of the bear, we demonstrated how important good cooperation is between NGOs and government institutions for the sake of nature conservation."
Alexander Dutsov, senior expert at the Species Conservation Programme and member of the WWF Bear Rescue Team
In the only sanctuary in Bulgaria that provides a second chance and lifelong care for rescued captive brown bears, the little bear who is estimated to be around four months old, is being provided with appropriate food and special care now.
"From the moment of the bear's arrival, an isolation protocol for the animal comes into effect. He is quite stressed and cries most of the time, but eats without problems and has no external injuries. We already dewormed the young bear and performed a medical examination on site. The feeding protocol is for four times a day, with the food including special milk and fruit for the time being until the cub calms down, after which the diet will be varied," says Dimitar Ivanov, Manager of BEAR SANCTUARY Belitsa.
Rehabilitation into the wild with specialized care
Preparations are underway for the placement of the bear in the specialized brown bear rehabilitation center ARCTUROS in Greece. There, the bear should grow stronger and acquire the skills necessary to survive in the wild. Once the young bear is ready to return to the wild, FOUR PAWS will help with his transport to Greece.
“While our sanctuaries are not equipped to take in adult wild bears as they are built for the rescue of captive bears, we are glad to offer support in special cases like this. We believe that orphaned wild bear cubs should get a chance to be rehabilitated and brought back to the wild where they belong. For this, we rely on expert partners like ARCTUROS and the Bulgarian authorities. We thank them for the good cooperation and look forward to seeing this cub released back into the wild,” says Barbara van Genne, Director of the Wild Animal department at FOUR PAWS.
It is not the first time that FOUR PAWS supports the rehabilitation of a wild bear cub in Bulgaria. Two similar actions were carried out in 2019 and 2022, when experts from FOUR PAWS, ARCTUROS Brown bear rehabilitation centre and sanctuary in Greece, the Bulgarian Ministry of Environment and Water, WWF Bulgaria, as well as regional stakeholders successfully returned a total of six bears into the wild.
FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organization for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need, and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organization advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy, and understanding. FOUR PAWS’ sustainable campaigns and projects focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam, as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.fourpawsusa.org