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One of Europe’s saddest bears has started a happy life


FOUR PAWS brings Albanian bear Riku to DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa

Brussels, 18.05.2017 – For bear Riku, whose young life has been marked by suffering, a happy life is dawning. On May 3rd, he was transferred to DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa in Bulgaria. This bear sanctuary is jointly managed by the international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS and the Brigitte Bardot Foundation. After a short adaption period Riku took his first steps in the natural environment of his outside enclosure. And loved it!

Bulgaria, Belitsa - Release of bear Riku in his outdoor enclosure at DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa.

On May 3rd, a FOUR PAWS team was in Tirana Zoo to transfer bear Riku safely to his new home in Bulgaria. After being sedated, the 2 year old bear got a short medical check and was loaded in the bear ambulance. This special vehicle for bear transports is equipped and licensed especially for long distance transports of wild animals. Due to international transport regulations, the journey needed to go via Macedonia and Greece and arrived on May 4th at DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa (


“Riku was first released into the indoor area of his enclosure,” explains FOUR PAWS bear expert Carsten Hertwig. “Once he had recovered from his long journey and got used to his new environment, we released him into the outdoor enclosure. Watching him experience his new home was a wonderful moment for all of us. He was so relaxed and peaceful! Our aim is to eventually socialize Riku with other bears. When we can start this process though, entirely depends on his character and behaviour.”


With the arrival of Riku, DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa now provides a species appropriate home to 20 former dancing bears, 4 bears from zoos, and 2 from private keeping. The animals live in an area of around 12 hectares and the living conditions match their natural requirements. About half of the bears dig their own dens and the fact that many bears in Belitsa hibernate is a sign that the animals are doing well. Riku will soon be able to live this happy life as well.


Until now, FOUR PAWS and other NGOs dedicated to animal welfare and nature conservation, managed to rescue more than 20 Albanian bears from horrific keeping conditions and transfer them to wildlife sanctuaries in Greece, Italy, Germany, Bulgaria and Kosovo. Among them are selfie bear Jeta, beer bear Tomi and chain bear Pashuk. These bears recovered quickly from their past ordeals and live like a bear should.


In Albania an estimated 40 captive brown bears still live in poor keeping conditions. The rescue and transfer of Riku is part of the FOUR PAWS campaign to save Albania’s saddest bears. Hertwig: “A lot has been achieved for bears in Albania since FOUR PAWS signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Albanian Ministry of Environment in March 2016. But in fact, much remains to be done to put an end to the inappropriate keeping of captive bears in Albania. Besides the creation of a sanctuary for bears in Albania, FOUR PAWS also supports the official registration of all remaining captive bears and continues with awareness work to support the process for sustainable change.”


 In order to achieve a long-term solution for all bears in Albania, FOUR PAWS is calling for and supports the consistent application of existing laws and the introduction of a ban on the cruel keeping of bears. To further encourage the Albanian Environment Minister, FOUR PAWS launched an online petition which already has been signed by over a quarter of a million people around the world (