Animal Charity

Two of the last illegally kept brown bears in Croatia have found a new home


FOUR PAWS rescues and transfers Suzana and Bruno to Croatian bear refuge

15.7.2019 – Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS has successfully rescued two brown bears from illegal private keeping in eastern Croatia on 11th July. Suzana and Bruno, who are approximately 20 and 40 years old, were among the last five inappropriately kept brown bears in Croatia. With the introduction of a new animal protection law in January 2019, FOUR PAWS was finally able to free the bears from the tiny cages they had been kept in. Suzana and Bruno have now found a new and species-appropriate home at the Croatian FOUR PAWS cooperation partner Bear Refuge Kuterevo. 

Once the new Animal Protection Act prohibiting the keeping of bears in captivity except in zoos and shelters came into full force, the illegal status of Suzana and Bruno was validated, and FOUR PAWS was able prepare their rescue. The FOUR PAWS team on-site, led by veterinarian Marc Gölkel from Leibnitz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), first rescued Suzana from an unlicensed family zoo in Markovac Nasicki and went on to rescue Brunofrom another unlicensed family zoo in Cerna. Both had been cleared for the transport during a prior medical check. 

“Suzana was less stressed than expected before the anaesthesia and the rescue went smoothly. We are confident that she will soon recover. Bruno's health, however, is not as good. He is clearly underweight for a bear of his stature and his canines are in very bad condition. In combination with his poor health and presumably old age, it is important to monitor him closely over the next few months.”

Veterinarian Marc Gölkel

The team rescued and transferred both bears within one day without any problems. Now Bear Refuge Kuterevo on the western coast of Croatia will make sure that Suzana and Bruno receive all the care they need. While another transfer might prove too exhausting for senior bear Bruno, FOUR PAWS is planning to bring Suzana to one of its own bear sanctuaries in the future.

One step closer to the ending the illegal private keeping of bears in Croatia

At present, three other bears are being kept in conditions unsuited to their species near a restaurant and in one unlicensed mini zoo in Croatia. FOUR PAWS is monitoring the progress on the legal status of these bears and, together with its cooperation partner Bear Refuge Kuterevo, is ready to provide a temporary or lasting home for them as well. FOUR PAWS already supported the Croatian bear refuge in 2015 financially and with their expertise regarding the construction of one enclosure and species-appropriate bear management. With the arrival of Suzana and Bruno, the support will continue. 

“We are grateful for the good cooperation with the Croatian Ministry of Agriculture and the local support we have received from Animal Friends Croatia. Thanks to our shared efforts, two more bears can now live in species-appropriate surroundings and enjoy a happy life.” 

Carsten Hertwig, Bear Expert at FOUR PAWS. 

'Saddest Bears' Campaign: End Bear Suffering in Europe

Many bears in Europe spend their lives in agonising surroundings, kept in tiny cages near restaurants or hotels, where they are exhibited as tourist attractions. The cramped, inappropriate living conditions are very stressful for the animals both physically and mentally. FOUR PAWS intends to put an end to the cruel keeping of bears in Croatia as part of its 'Saddest Bears' campaign. Read more:

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Hannah Baker

Head of Communications UK 

020 7922 7954 / 07966 032 235

7 - 14 Great Dover Street, London, SE1 4YR


FOUR PAWS is an international animal welfare organisation with headquarters in Vienna, Austria. Founded by Heli Dungler in 1988, the organisation strives to help animals in need with sustainable campaigns and projects. The work is based on substantiated research and scientific expertise as well as intensive national and international lobbying. FOUR PAWS focuses on animals that are directly under human influence: stray dogs and stray cats, farm animals, companion animals and wild animals including bears, big cats and orang-utans kept in inappropriate conditions. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Kosovo, Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand, Ukraine, United Kingdom, USA and Vietnam, FOUR PAWS aims to help animals in need directly and quickly.