Investigation into the keeping of bears Felix and Mascha

The sad fate of four brown bears in Slovenia

FOUR PAWS calls on authorities for urgent action as bears suffer and die in cruel keeping conditions


LJUBLJANA /BOSTON, MARCH 5 2024 – Concern continues to grow for four bears kept in terrible conditions by their private owners in Slovenia. Despite tireless efforts of FOUR PAWS, the global animal welfare organization, Slovenian authorities refuse to confiscate the bears. They have been suffering in small, concrete cages in a private zoo for over 30 years and used as entertainment next to restaurants for decades.  

There used to be five bears but one has recently died. The remaining four bears are also showing serious health concerns. FOUR PAWS urges the responsible Slovenian Ministries to finally act and give the bears a second chance at a better life. The organization aims to rescue the bears and relocate them to its species-appropriate bear sanctuaries in Europe.

"It is a scandal that the EU country of Slovenia is allowing animals to vegetate like this said,” Patricia Tiplea, Head of the Wild Animal Rescue and Advocacy unit at FOUR PAWS. She continued, “The bears have been living in small cages for decades, on bare concrete, without protection from the weather or adequate food and medical care. Despite our tireless efforts, the authorities have been stalling for a long time. Even after the death of one of the bears, they continue to do nothing. The animals are in really bad shape – we must finally get them out,".

Three of the bears live in cages at restaurants, one in a private zoo. The bears' teeth are in a disastrous state, which must cause the animals massive pain. They also exhibit stereotypical behavior such as pacing or biting at the cage bars. Veterinarian Julia Bohner from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) visited them in summer 2023 together with FOUR PAWS and made an alarming diagnosis: "I urgently recommend that the bears are relocated to a species-appropriate home to prevent further physical and psychological damage," says Bohner.

The deceased 33-year-old bear Felix lived together with the 34-year-old female bear Masha at Gostilna Tušek restaurant and hotel in Kocevje. 


"When we visited, the animals had no drinking water and the two small pools in the enclosure were empty. The floor was littered with feces, indicating that the enclosure had not been cleaned for at least ten days. Apart from a tree trunk, there was no activity to engage with for the bears. Both animals were apathetic and barely responded to stimulation. Now Felix has died in his concrete cage – what a sad ending to a sad life."

-Patricia Tiplea, Head of the Wild Animal Rescue and Advocacy unit at FOUR PAWS

It has been illegal for private individuals in Slovenia to keep bears that have been taken from the wild since 2004. However, owners who acquired their animals before 2004 and could no longer release them into the wild were able to obtain a permit to keep them from the responsible Ministry. This exemption also applies following an amendment to the Animal Welfare Act, which came into force in April 2023 and prohibits the keeping of bears born in captivity. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food's Food Safety, Veterinary and Plant Protection Authority are responsible for the health and welfare of the bears while the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning is responsible for husbandry conditions.

According to Slovenian law, bears must have access to:

·       An outdoor enclosure of 150 m²/bear + 20m² for each additional bear

·       An indoor enclosure of 6 m²

·       A pool of 60m² x 1.5m depth

·       Fresh food, including fish, meat, fruit and vegetables

·       A structured enclosure with a natural floor and climbing facilities

"During both on-site visits, we found that none of the owners were keeping the bears in accordance with the law. That alone should alert the authorities. We are now trying to mobilize the public so that they finally get their act together. The bears urgently need our help," concluded Tiplea.

FOUR PAWS in helping the four bears in Slovenia to a better life and are asking the public to help pressure the Slovenian authorities to take action:

Help for Bears in Slovenia

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. 

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