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A new home for two Croatian zoo bears


© VIER PFOTEN | Velebitska Udruga Kuterevo | Amelie Jaquet

Last week, after many years behind bars in a cramped zoo enclosure with a concrete floor, brown bears Mirna (31) and Victor (17) have finally made it to a refuge for bears. The international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS transferred them from the municipal zoo in Split to the “Kuterevo” refuge in northern Croatia. FOUR PAWS had already been observing the bad keeping conditions of the animals 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, to give the carers time to observe their state of health and their behaviour. Yesterda, 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.

© VIER PFOTEN | Chris Flechtner

Mirna and Victor are doing well

Annika Heikamp, biologist and bear expert at FOUR PAWS: “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 vet Prof. 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.

© VIER PFOTEN | Velebitska Udruga Kuterevo | Amelie Jaquet

FOUR PAWS wishes to bring the private keeping of bears in Croatia to an end

The Kuterevo bear refuge in Croatia’s Velebit mountains was originally intended to be a centre 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 to bears from poor keeping conditions in zoos or private hands. Another enclosure is already being planned, to accommodate the last bears in private keeping 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.

© VIER PFOTEN | Chris Flechtner