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FOUR PAWS ends illegal keeping of brown bears in Poland


Pietka and Wojtusia arrive successfully in their new home in Poznań Zoo


Poznań, December 15th 2016 – Ending years of suffering, FOUR PAWS transferred brown bears Pietka and Wojtusia yesterday from Mini Zoo Braniewo  to Poznań Zoo. The bears, who had been kept in small enclosures with concrete floors have been moved to Poznań Zoo, where they will soon inhabit two new, large bear enclosures. With this action, the international animal welfare organisation achieved its long-term goal to completely end the illegal keeping of brown bears in Poland.


Carsten Hertwig, bear expert at FOUR PAWS, says: “It is a great success for us that after five years of hard work we have finally ended all illegal keeping of brown bears in Poland. They have all suffered from living in tiny, cages with little or no behavioural enrichment and proper care. It is a great relief to know that they can now spend their lives in species-appropriate enclosures in the care of experienced animal keepers”.

© FOUR PAWS | Christiane Flechtner

After their medical check-up under general anaesthesia, the bears received an antidote and their journey began. Pietka and Wojtusia crossed the country from the Northeast to the West and successfully arrived at Poznań Zoo yesterday evening. The bears are currently acclimating to their new surroundings and are staying for now in an indoor enclosure. As the bears were kept individually in Braniewo, they will get private enclosures at Poznań Zoo as well. They will be closely supervised by the animal keepers during their fist days at the zoo and, depending on their readiness, will be released into their large outdoor enclosures (7.600 m² and 6.500 m² in size) with trees, ponds and enough space to act out their natural instincts.

© FOUR PAWS | Christiane Flechtner

© FOUR PAWS | Christiane Flechtner

Dr Frank Göritz and Dr Marc Gölkel, specialised wildlife veterinarians from IZW (Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research) in Berlin thoroughly checked the two bears before their transfer. Dr Frank Göritz says: “Wojtusia is in a relatively good state, but does suffer from quite severe dental problems, which can be ascribed to malnutrition and gnawing on the cage bars. Her upper canine teeth are severely damaged and medical treatment in due time will be necessary to avoid any further complications. Pietka’s claws are veryworn-out as are the balls of his feet. Due to physical inactivity, he is also quite overweight. But thanks to FOUR PAWS he will soon have a lot more space to move around and a balanced diet plan at the large bear enclosure in Poznań Zoo.”

© FOUR PAWS | Christiane Flechtner

© FOUR PAWS | Christiane Flechtner

Both bears have very sad histories: Pietka was handed over to the mini zoo Braniewo by a Ukrainian circus in 1995 at less than a year old. He is the father of female bear Wojtusia, who was born in Braniewo in 2001. The animals were fed poor diets and did not receive appropriate medical care in the past. When FOUR PAWS intervened, the organization first took several steps to improve the living conditions of the then four bears at the zoo. FOUR PAWS co-funded the surgery of Pietka when the papilloma on his rear was removed and funded supplements to treat his afflicted joints. Furthermore, an enrichment program for the bears at the zoo was initiated, but still their overall keeping conditions remained bad. Unfortunately, the construction of the large bear enclosures at Poznań Zoo was delayed, therefore, only two of the bears, Ewka and Gienia, were transferred to the zoo in spring 2016. Now, with the final completion of the enclosures, with Pietka and Wojtusia, the last illegally kept brown bears in the country have finally been given a nice home.

FOUR PAWS bear rescue activities in Poland

FOUR PAWS first became active in Poland in 2011 by saving three bears: Kasia, Basia and Michal. Kasia and Basia, two female bears, were kept in the zoo of Leszno, where they had to share 60 square meters of space under unsanitary conditions. Eight-year-old Michal lost his foreleg in a fight with another bear in Mini Zoo Braniewo. All three bears were transported to the BEAR SANCTUARY Müritz in Germany.


In 2012, the private keeping of brown bears was banned in Poland and FOUR PAWS signed a cooperation contract with Poznań Zoo to construct Poland’s biggest and most modern outdoor bear sanctuary. During the first construction phase both the main building with indoor enclosures and two big outdoor enclosures of 7000 m² and 4000 m² were built.


Having a solution for the bears in place, FOUR PAWS went on to save bears Wania, Misza and Borys from the Korabiewice shelter. The three bears shared fates of agony: Borys and Misza were both circus bears while Borys was abandoned and kept in an old wagon for a decade. Misza bore deep physical scars from his taming and was blinded in one eye due to a severe injury. Wania, meanwhile, was abused in dog fights after spending the first years of his life locked up in a council flat. All three bears were rescued and transported to Poznań Zoo.


In 2016, 21-year-old brown bear Ewka and her 13 year old daughter Gienia were finally able to leave Braniewo. They are currently doing well at Poznań Zoo though both have some health issues after years of captivity. 


Following the completion of the second construction phase, it was finally Pietka’s and Wojtusia’s turn. After ending the illegal keeping of brown bears in Poland, FOUR PAWS will, nonetheless, remain in contact with Poznań Zoo and make sure that all the rescued bears get the best possible medical treatment and necessary care.