Three bear cubs were found wandering around a year ago.in the Rhodope Mountains in central Bulgaria. They were stressed, scared and didn’t have a mother.
Global animal welfare organization Four Paws together with Bulgaria’s environment ministry successfully conducted the rescue mission in June 2021 and have now overseen their return to nature after a year of specialized care in Greece.
After their rescue, the trio_Huba, Vihar and Goran _ were transferred to ARCTUROS rehabilitation center for brown bears in Greece in preparation for their return to the wild.
Finally, after a thorough examination on 14 May, specialists at the Greek rehabilitation center confirmed that the bears had reached the required age and weight to return to the wilderness.
Four Paws then transported the bears from Greece to Bulgaria with the help of a special bear transport car.
“Unfortunately, the number of orphaned bears has drastically increased in the last ten years. There are several reasons, but almost always they are related to direct human activity – poaching, habitat reduction, or entering the bears’ territories,” said Dimitar Ivanov, who manages Belitsa Bear Sanctuary.
“ We firmly believe that it is best for them to return to nature after rehabilitation. That way they get a chance to live their lives as wild bears,” he added.
The exact release location of the bears remains secret for their protection.
The three cubs will need care as they adapt to their new habitat. They have special collars that allow WWF specialists to track them, but they will only intervene if there are questions about their health or signs of problematic behavior.
Experts will make regular field visits to place and check photo traps for observation, as well as for re-capture of the bears if needed.
The Executive Environment Agency says the bear population has shrunk by 40% in the last decade – from 518 in 2011 to 329 in 2019.
“I hope that Huba, Vihar and Goran will adapt quickly to their new home in the wild of Bulgaria and will stay healthy. We continue to work to improve bear conservation policies by strengthening control over bear poaching and improving methods to compensate farmers who have been harmed by bear attacks,” Environment Minister Borislav Sandov, said.
The Belitsa bear sanctuary has an interesting story. In 2000, it used to be a park for retired dancing bears after the medieval tradition died out after bears were declared a protected species in 1998.
The park recently changed its name to Belitsa Bear Sanctuary after it was established by FOUR PAWS and the Brigitte Bardot Fondation as a permanent home for former ‘dancing bears’ that were rescued by Four Paws.
The sanctuary will also be a home for bears rescued from substandard zoos and private captivity.
The last dancing bear in Bulgaria was rescued in 2007, Four Paws said.
The sanctuary is home to 19 rescued bears that inhabit twelve hectares of natural habitat in the heart of Rila in Bulgaria.