Bear Sam on his way to Arosa Bear Sanctuary

“Sad Bears” travel from North Macedonia to Sanctuary in Switzerland

FOUR PAWS transfers two brown bears to new home in the Swiss alps


May 2022 - FOUR PAWS, the global animal welfare organization, successfully transferred two brown bears from Skopje Zoo in North Macedonia to its Arosa Bear Sanctuary in Switzerland. After the three-day-journey, the bears arrived in their new home on May 20th.

Eighteen year old bear siblings Sam and Jamila spent their lives separately in a zoo enclosure that was not species-appropriate. Due to urgently needed renovation of the enclosure, the bears had to be relocated. And they are lucky, FOUR PAWS agreed to take them in and provide them with a new home right in the middle of the stunning natural environment of the Swiss alps.

After their arrival, Jamila and Sam bears were cautious but doing well. While Sam immediately sought rest in the wooden den, Jamila was a little more curious. She gingerly explored the new surroundings, but also stayed close to her hiding spot. Bears Amelia and Meimo, who are the current residents of the sanctuary, watched the arrival of their new neighbors curiously from the outside area.

The journey went as planned. An experienced team from FOUR PAWS and Arosa Bear Sanctuary along with a wildlife veterinarian accompanied the transfer. The sixty hours journey took the bears over twelve hundred miles through four countries in a specialized bear transport van. From North Macedonia to Greece and then by ferry to Italy. Once in Italy, the journey continued to Switzerland and finally up to alpine Arosa.

 Prior to departure, the bears were anesthetized so that they could undergo a veterinary examination and be loaded into the transport boxes. Once the bears were awake, they departed on the journey of their lives:

"The elaborate transport preparations, which were planned down to the last detail, have proven their worth. We are extremely happy that everything went so well and that the bear siblings have finally arrived at their forever home,"

-Pascal Jenny, President of the Arosa Bears Foundation, who runs Arosa Bear Sanctuary in cooperation with FOUR PAWS.

The bear siblings were brought to Skopje Zoo as cubs and have lived there ever since. They were kept separately in two enclosures that were only a few hundred square meters in size. The enclosures had natural soil and vegetation, but overall there was little variety and activity.

"In addition, the bears did not always have access to water there, as the pools were leaking. So it's all the more pleasing that these bears now have a life in the middle of the Arosa mountains, where they can bathe, climb, explore, and live out their natural behaviors," says Alexandra Mandoki, Country Director of FOUR PAWS Switzerland.

Sam and Jamila will spend the first weeks after their arrival in the spacious indoor enclosure to get used to their new surroundings in peace and quiet. In a next step, the two bears will be introduced to the outdoor enclosures. Depending on their behavior, the team at Arosa Bear Sanctuary will try to socialize all four bears in the outdoor enclosure in summer. The sanctuary offers plenty of places to retreat and hide for each individual bear on its almost three hectare grounds.

In the heart of the picturesque Grisons mountains lies Arosa Bear Sanctuary. Since August 2018, Arosa has been running the 2.8-hectare bear sanctuary together with FOUR PAWS. It functions as a life-long home for bears that were not kept in conditions appropriate to their species. Bears need space to roam around, to dig, play, and bathe. Arosa Bear Sanctuary offers species-appropriate conditions for a bear-worthy life at around 6,500 feet above sea level. 

One of the main focuses of the FOUR PAWS #SaveTheSaddestBears initiative is to improve the situation of captive bears all over the world. In recent years, FOUR PAWS has launched bear projects and carried out bear and big cat rescues in countries such as Ukraine, Albania, Kosovo, Croatia, Serbia and Bulgaria. FOUR PAWS plans to expand the focus of its wildlife conservation work in this European region and help bears and big cats in need in North Macedonia.

With the rescue of the brown bear Teddy from illegal keeping and his transport to the BEAR SANCTUARY Belitsa (formerly DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa) in 2020, FOUR PAWS has already taken first steps to end the inappropriate keeping of bears in North Macedonia. In close cooperation with stakeholders such as the Skopje Zoo, FOUR PAWS would like to continue this work in the future to sustainably improve the protection of captive bears and big cats in the country.

Bear Teddy at BEAR SANCTUARY Belitsa

Support our work to save the #SavethesaddestBears

Give now

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. 

Share now!