Bear Vesko rescued from Bulgaria

helping Wild animals in Bulgaria

Animals rescued from suffering

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Help for zoo animals in Bulgaria

Latest investigations done by FOUR PAWS reveal the miserable conditions under which big cats, brown bears and other wild animals are kept in some Bulgarian zoos.

Confined in tiny cages, with hardly any exercise, little to no enrichment, poor professional care, and no opportunities to retreat, these animals suffer enormously. Some of these animals suffer serious health issues as a result of uncontrolled breeding and even inbreeding. 

FOUR PAWS are helping these animals in a few ways: 

  1. Revealing their suffering through our undercover investigations,
  2. Rescuing them from their miserable conditions, and 
  3. Protecting them in our sanctuaries, as well as lobbying with the government to improve and enforce regulations on animal facilities in Bulgaria.

Read our report on Bulgarian zoos and some of our success stories below.

The FOUR PAWS report on zoos in Bulgaria

The FOUR PAWS report on zoos in Bulgaria

There are 21 zoos in Bulgaria, distributed throughout the country. Almost all (19) of them are publicly owned and managed by local municipalities. Seventeen of these zoos are open to visitors, including the Kyustendil Zoo, although it has had its license revoked since 2011.

May 2021: We made it!

Thanks to all of you, we collected 50,000 signatures calling for an end of wild animal cruelty in Bulgaria! The next step will be to officially hand over the petition to the Bulgarian Ministry of the Environment and to discuss the findings from our zoo report with the European Commission.
The report provides proof that many animals live in unsuitable conditions while compliance with minimum requirements for animal welfare, conservation, and education systematically fails. We hope that the proof, the public pressure, and our recommendations will lead to concrete and fast actions to improve the life of the animals in many of the zoos in Bulgaria. Thank you for your great support, we will keep you posted about further developments!

Boyka (L), a 7 years old female bear and  Standy (R), a 7 years old male bear  in their enclosure in Nikolovo Mini Zoo Lipnki in Ruse.

December 2020

The story of Boyka and Standy!

Since we rescued them in 2015, Boyka and Standy are two happy bears. It is hard to imagine that their story was like the one of so many other animals closed in cruel cages in substandard illegal zoo facilities. Luckily the cruel cage where they used to live is already long closed and no longer used to keep bears.

Russe zoo or Nikolovo Mini-Zoo Lipnik in Ruse used to keep several animal species among them also brown bears. After the Bulgarian legislation that transposed the European Zoo Directive in 2002 and 2006 came into force, the zoo never received a valid license as it did not comply with the legal requirements for zoos. The facility obtained two bears called Karamush and Svoboda in 1993 which had bear cubs in 2007. The cubs were 
Boyka and Standy. All along after their birth the municipality promised to build a new modern facility to keep the bears but this did not happen. Luckily, after month of negotiations, FOUR PAWS got the green light to rescue Boyka and Standy from the horrible cage they were kept in, and transfer them to Dancing Bears Park Belitsa, which is run in cooperation with Fondation Brigitte Bardot. Now they enjoy a much better life.

This is the story of many other zoo animals as well. While the owners of many other facilities promise renovations and new projects, nothing happens and the animals remain in cruel cages for many years. Actually, this should not happen because the Bulgarian legislation obliges national authorities to control, and also close down such enclosures and facilities if legal requirements are not fulfilled.

Bear Vesko at DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa

November 2019

Brown bear Vesko is being transferred by FOUR PAWS from Zoo Sofia to DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa. Born in 2010, Vesko was a victim of uncontrolled breeding. In 2011, Zoo Sofia got Vesko from Zoo Varna, who wasn’t able to provide enough space and species-appropriate living conditions. In Zoo Sofia there was also not sufficient space for Vesko, therefore FOUR PAWS offered a forever home for him. Read his story here!

Lion Ivan-Asen at FELIDA

March 2018

Ivan-Asen, born at Razgrad Zoo in 2014 and uncle of Terez, arrives at FELIDA Big Cat Centre in the Netherlands. He was found malnourished, dehydrated, emaciated and very anxious and there was no space for him in Bulgaria. Ivan-Asen is the result of inbreeding, causing very serious health issues. He has found a forever home here, where he will receive live-long special care. As a result of FOUR PAWS efforts, only two lions were left in Razgrad zoo, Lubo and Eva.

Lions Terez and Masoud at FELIDA

February 2018

Lion Terez arrives together with his brother Masoud, at FELIDA Big Cat Centre in The Netherlands. They were born in September 2017 at Razgrad Zoo and were abandoned by their mother. They are the result of multiple generations of inbreeding, with their parents as well as their grandparents being siblings. This has resulted in many health issues, including neurological problems affecting their walking capabilities. These health issues were causing Masoud severe pain, which could not be improved/treated anymore. We unfortunately had to say our final farewell to Masoud at the end of July 2020. Terez will continue to receive special care for the rest of his life

Lions Raya and Hector from Razgrad Zoo

December 2017

With the help of FOUR PAWS, the lions Raya and Hector from Razgrad Zoo are relocated to the Zoo Sofia where pregnant lioness Raya can give birth in a safe environment and under veterinary control. A few months later the two lions are relocated to the Zoo Pazardzhik.

FOUR PAWS visits Razgrad Zoo

November 2017

FOUR PAWS visits Razgrad Zoo to conduct vet checks on their four lions, two males and two females. To prevent them from breeding, FOUR PAWS vasectomizes the two males. During this vet check, FOUR PAWS also finds lion Ivan-Asen, who is malnourished, dehydrated, emaciated and very anxious. He is the result of uncontrolled inbreeding and spent a significant time of his life in a dark, concrete cage full of his own faeces.

Tigress Varvara at TIERART

September 2015

FOUR PAWS rescues tigress Varvara from a circus wagon in which she was kept since Bulgaria banned wild animals in circuses in January 2015. FOUR PAWS brought her to TIERART Big Cat Centre in Germany. Varvara is the last circus tiger that had to be rescued from Bulgaria.

Bear Standy to DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa

June 2015

After several years of efforts and negotiations, FOUR PAWS finally rescues the two bears Boyka and Standy that are kept illegally in 'Nikolovo Mini-Zoo Lipnik' near Ruse, and transfers the bears to DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa, which is run in cooperation with Fondation Brigitte Bardot. Following this action the 'Nikolovo Mini-Zoo Lipnik' was closed for good.

Bears in Bulgaria

March 2015

Upon request of the Bulgarian Ministry of Environment and in order to support the Zoo 'Kaylaka' in Pleven with renovation and improvement of its bear enclosure, FOUR PAWS transports the three young brown bears Victoria, Miladin and Kostadin from Pleven to Zoo Dobrich. Victoria and Miladin were transferred back to Pleven after construction works were finished, while male bear Kostadin stays in Zoo Dobrich. Miladin and Kostadin were vasectomized.


July 2014

The two brown bears Nasko and Gabriela that were kept in unsuitable conditions in Zoo Plovdiv are rescued and become residents of the DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa which is being run in cooperation by FOUR PAWS and Fondation Brigitte Bardot.

June 2011

FOUR PAWS provides medical help for the two bears Boyka and Standy in 'Nikolovo Mini-Zoo Lipnik' near Ruse. The bear Boyka was transferred for an operation to the DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa and returned to the zoo where the two bears are being kept in a small concrete enclosure under appalling keeping conditions. Within following years, FOUR PAWS fights for the rescue and relocation of the two bears to a more species-appropriate place.

February 2011

FOUR PAWS rescues 17-year-old lioness Bagira and 8-year-old tiger Martin, both born in Bulgarian zoos, and transports them to LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa where they spent their final years in species-appropriate conditions.

November 2010

After receiving information about the bad condition of lioness Bagira in the Zoo of Pavlikeni, FOUR PAWS launches a first aid mission. She is suffering from health problems due to improper feeding and environment. Shortly after the medical help provided by FOUR PAWS, Bagiras’ condition is gradually improving, and the wounds are healing.

October 2010

FOUR PAWS rescues two lionesses, Lea and Simona, that were kept in private keeping. This was a positive result of Bulgaria passing its first animal welfare legislation in 2008, making private keeping of big cats illegal. Simona was rescued from a private keeping situation at a hotel and Lea was handed over by a local businessman as a cub. Both lions are brought to LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa.

September 2009

FOUR PAWS supports the confiscation and relocation of the brown bear Vasko kept in horrendous conditions in Zoo Haskovo, the bear was later shipped to Zoo Pavlikeni.

September 2007

FOUR PAWS rescues the bear Lady M from Zoo Shumen. After this rescue, no more bears are kept at this zoo. Lady M was brought to DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa, a bear sanctuary in Bulgaria which is being run by FOUR PAWS in cooperation with Fondation Brigitte Bardot, here Lady M is still enjoying her life. Being more than 40 years old she is one of the oldest bears that is currently living under our care.

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