Teddy the bear’s former owners had raised him as a pet in their yard after he was found as an orphaned cub in the wild. When Teddy grew too big, his owner relinquished him to Shtip Zoo, where the bear spent three years alone in a small rusty cage, according to a press release by the international animal welfare group Four Paws.
After reports of Teddy’s deplorable conditions emerged, Four Paws launched an investigation at the end of 2019. During an on-site visit, the team confirmed that Teddy’s dire living conditions were taking a serious toll on his physical and psychological health.
The team also noted a safety risk: Teddy’s rusty cage was not secure, and the public would be in danger if he escaped.
Upon learning that Shtip Zoo did not have a license to keep him, Four Paws returned to release Teddy. He was destined for a brand-new life at the mountainous Dancing Bears Park in Belitsa Sanctuary, Western Bulgaria, run in conjunction with Fondation Brigitte Bardot and Four Paws.
The rescue team braved the 500-kilometer trip to North Macedonia before returning to Bulgaria via Greece, with Teddy. It was a tricky cross-border transfer, and things delayed due to restrictions owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, they still made it.
On Nov. 5, Teddy joined 21 brown bears living on 12 hectares of species-appropriate habitat, many of whom are former dancing bears from Bulgaria, Serbia, and Albania.
“We welcome the decision of the municipality of Shtip and the responsible authorities to end the inappropriate keeping of Teddy,” Barbara van Genne, Four Paws Wild Animal Rescue and Advocacy expert, shared in a press release.
“Teddy will have time to rest now,” Barbara continued, adding that the bear has damaged teeth from biting the metal bars of his cage and infections in his paws from the dirty concrete floor.
“He lived a very dreary life, without any enrichment or space to move around,” she explained. “That will change now, and he can rediscover his natural behaviors in our sanctuary.”
Unlicensed private ownership of bears is currently illegal in North Macedonia, but due to a lack of species-appropriate accommodations for wild animals in the country, the law is not properly enforced.
On Dec. 3, Four Paws posted an update of Teddy on Instagram. “We are overwhelmed to see how confident he already is in his new surroundings,” they wrote. The playful bear, they said, loves throwing his long stick and playing with it in his pond. Additionally, he also enjoys napping in his warm straw bed.
Teddy represents a triumph in the effort to improve life for captive brown bears. Four Paws has at least two more bears suffering in private captivity in North Macedonia on their radar.
On Dec. 8, one month after Teddy’s rescue, Four Paws came to the aid of a circus bear living in a tiny cage in a garage in Ukraine. Jambolina had been used as a performer by the circus for 11 years, according to the Daily Mail.
The bear’s owners willingly relinquished her, saying that they’d been forced to cage her since business dried up at the onset of the pandemic.
Across four days, the rescue team transported Jambolina to Arosa Bear Land reserve in Switzerland to rest and rehabilitate in an adaption enclosure. Barbara explained, “Through targeted food distribution, she will be accustomed to the rhythm of hibernation and hopefully regain her natural instincts.”
Watch the video:
(Courtesy of FOUR PAWS)
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