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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

FOUR PAWS had made an agreement with the Bulgarian Environment Ministry to transfer two illegally-held bears to a species-appropriate enclosure within Bulgaria, but the plan fell apart at the last minute. We will continue to fight for the right solution for the two sibling bears Standy and Boyka.

The bears have to live under disastrous conditions

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 EU-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. 

© FOUR PAWS l Mihai Vasile

Environment Ministry had inexplicably granted Ruse City a further year’s grace

Consequently the Ministry had planned to confiscate Standy and Boyka, and had asked FOUR PAWS to take over the bears directly afterwards. Since FOUR PAWS DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa is currently at full capacity, FOUR PAWS had entered into cooperation with Dobrich Zoo, the only zoo in Bulgaria with an open-air bear enclosure satisfying FOUR PAWS’ high quality standards. FOUR PAWS had agreed with the Environment Ministry to transfer the two bears to Dobrich Zoo on 2nd April. A team of experts was already on the way to Ruse in a bear transport, when they were stunned to be informed that the Environment Ministry had inexplicably granted Ruse City a further year’s grace. From a legal standpoint it is incomprehensible that the Environment Ministry would yet again grant a grace period. It’s not as if we believe that Ruse City will now suddenly and rapidly build a species-appropriate enclosure. We expect the Environment Ministry to force compliance with EU law, and we will continue to do our utmost to ensure that Standy and Boyka finally get a home fit for bears.


During five hours of negotiations yesterday with the Mayor of Ruse and Environment Ministry staff, FOUR PAWS called for the animals’ welfare to be given priority, and to free them at last from their disastrous conditions.

Still around 40 bears are being illegally kept in Bulgarian zoos

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. Still around 40 bears are being illegally kept in Bulgarian zoos.