As you may guess, today is a very special day for us. It’s a day that draws attention to our focus, to celebrate our achievements, and to bring together our supporters in the name of animal welfare, worldwide.
As an organisation, we are working tirelessly to be the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Our vision is a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding.
We do this by refining our approach across some key animal groups, which includes bears, big cats, companion animals, and farm animals. Each of these groups hosts its own challenges to overcome and its own victories to cherish. They are also rich in their own ability to interest and engage us, which is why we asked our communities to share their favourite facts on these animals. Below are some of our favourites:
The sun bear’s tongues is up to 10 inches long (up the size of a Cadbury's Twirl)
Bears are bowlegged giving them better grip and balance
A lion’s roar can be heard five miles away
A lion sleeps up to 20 hours a day
Mother pigs sing to their young while nursing
Another way we are working to bring our vision to life, making World Animal Day every day, is not only through rescuing animals in need, but also caring for them. We do this through our multiple sanctuaries across the world, ranging from a big cat sanctuary in South Africa to a bear sanctuary in Switzerland. We understand that the keeping of animals in a sanctuary, instead of releasing them into the wild, might not seem like the best step forward, but it is.
To help shine a light on this, we’ve compiled some common questions that we’re asked alongside the answers from our experts:
Are the animals are FOUR PAWS sanctuaries better off in the wild?
Some native wildlife is brought to our sanctuaries because animals are found injured, orphaned or allegedly orphaned. They are taken care of and released back to the wild, if they are fit for it. Others, like our bears and big cats, were born or raised in captivity, often under unsuitable conditions and cannot be released to the wild. Most of them have been deprived of living in a species-adequate environment.They were kept in tiny cages with concrete floors, offered a poor diet, and did not receive appropriate health care or any at all. A lot of them were used for “entertainment”, such as in circuses, or as “dancing bears” for years on end. For Asian black bears many were abused for their bile (to be used in Traditional Medicine). Under these circumstances many of them require medical attention for the rest of their lives. A big number of the animals we care for have suffered from long-term stress caused by malnutrition, confinement, cruel training methods and neglect, all caused by their suffering in the past, which may still affect them long after their rescue.
In order to both monitor and improve our animals` physical and psychological well-being, we organise regular veterinary checks and treat them accordingly, and the caregivers are working relentlessly to build a positive and trusting relationship between them and the animals in their care.
Many people are still confused as to why we can’t now release our bears and big cats into the wild. Sadly, their inappropriate rearing and keeping conditions prior to rescue and having lived close to humans for such an extended period of time (a lot of them since they were cubs) has annihilated the chances to release adult bears and big cats to the wild. Young bears and big cats will learn from their mothers all necessary skills to survive. Since in many cases, their mothers have either been killed, or they have born their young already into captivity, their offspring has never had the opportunity to learn all that. Additionally, they have become habituated to the presence of humans and often would not keep distance to human settlements, which can lead to them being killed. Last but not least, there is often no suitable habitat available where they could be released to, even if they were fit for it.
With all this it means that by offering them species appropriate homes, we can finally offer them a chance to express their natural behaviours, but in a safe environment.
How do the sanctuaries work to create a species-appropriate environment for their animals?
The enclosures` size and design plays a key role in complying all the animal`s needs. The spacious natural enclosures allow our animals to establish and follow their own daily routine, including running, strolling, foraging, species-specific communication (shrub on trees, keeping distances), hiding if they want to, bath, play etc. Following a basic principle of all FOUR PAWS Sanctuaries and partner projects, the animals are not being put on display, the overall focus is on creating an environment worth living in for the animals whereby the interactions with humans are reduced to a minimum. Visitors are given the possibility to get an impression of the everyday life of our animals, but it is intrinsic to our projects that animals can decide if they want to be seen or prefer to withdraw.
Our aim is to always encourage the animals to conduct all these natural behaviours and reduce possible stress situations.In order to create a species-appropriate environment for them, we make sure that in their surroundings they have the following key items at their disposal: natural vegetation (trees, ground, grassland, bushes) as much as possible of the overall area of the enclosure has to consist of natural ground but never less than 80%, open grassland, terrain rich in variety and wooden structures, water resources (possibility to take a bath, swim), hidden areas and possibilities to retreat, sleeping and resting places, the possibilities of building caves for hibernation, elevated observation/viewing platforms etc. Furthermore we provide the animals with an entire range of Behavioural and Environmental Enrichment to encourage the display of natural behaviours, keep them occupied, and stimulate their natural playfulness and curiosity.
We hope you’re celebrating World Animal Day in your own way! If you would like to be a part of our mission to help animals across the world, you can donate to our cause today.