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Bulgarian zoo refuses to hand over illegally-held bears

FOUR PAWS puts pressure on Environment Ministry to comply with EU Directives

The animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS was asked by the Bulgarian Environment Ministry (EM) to transfer two illegally-held bears to a species-appropriate enclosure within Bulgaria, but the plan fell apart at the last minute. FOUR PAWS will continue to fight for the right solution for the two sibling bears Standy and Boyka.

Two bears, siblings Standy and Boyka, are being kept illegally in appalling conditions in a cramped, dark, damp concrete cage in a mini-zoo in Lesopark Lipnik, near the city of Ruse (northern Bulgaria). They have to stand in their own urine, and as a result have chronically inflamed eyes and nasal membranes. They are malnourished and their cramped conditions have given them serious behavioural problems. The zoo has not had an EM-recognised licence to keep bears for years now. The Environment Ministry had set a deadline for the transfer of the bears, and in the meantime had repeatedly called on Ruse City to significantly improve the keeping conditions – but in vain.  According to the municipality, there already is a blueprint for a new zoo, but problems with land ownership delayed the start of construction.


The Environment Ministry turned to FOUR PAWS as the only animal welfare organization in Bulgaria, offering a free of charge, modern, licensed vehicle for bear transport. Unfortunately, a road block organized by locals prevented us from reaching the mini-zoo. As a result, a meeting was called to discuss the best possible solution for the situation at hand. We offered our help with the construction of the new bear enclosure in Ruse, as well as with the feeding and keeping of the bears for the next 5 years. The German actress and animal lover Katerina Jacob, who accompanied the FOUR PAWS team, made a personal donation for the new enclosure and promised to raise funds for the construction. However, the municipality refused our expert opinion and support, thus sentencing the bears to even more stress and suffering.


The current situation forced us to support the proposition made by the Ministry – Ruse Municipality has 2 months to expand the enclosure with 180 sq.m., 6 months to solve the land ownership problem and 18 months to build a new zoo. In case of delay the bears are to be moved temporarily to the zoo in Dobrich.

FOUR PAWS is against the decision of the municipality, that the bears stay in the zoo until the expansion of their enclosure is finished, as the noise and the presence of so many people will cause a lot of stress for the animals. Unfortunately, although Mayor Plamen Stoilov assured us that the work will be done by hand, on the very next day our team found the bears extremely aggravated because of an excavator on site. This, for us, is another proof that the conditions in the zoo are not up to par and the two bears should not be there during the construction works.


We regret that things turned out this way, but we will not give up and will continue to fight for better conditions for Boyka and Standy.


Since 2005, all zoos in EU Member States must fulfil the requirements of Council Directive 1999/22/EC of 29 March 1999 on the keeping of wild animals in zoos, and adopt a series of measures to improve keeping conditions. Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, and as a result all Bulgarian zoos are required to adapt their keeping conditions to the Directive if they are to keep their operating licence. The EU set a time window of five years for the improvements to be carried out. This period ended in 2013.