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FOUR PAWS saves female brown bears in Poland


Ewka and Gienia arrive safely at their new home in Poznan Zoo.  


Last week 21 year old brown bear Ewka and her 13 year old daughter Gienia were finally able to travel to their large new enclosure in Poznan Zoo. A team consisting of FOUR PAWS, Poznan Zoo and vets took the bears away from a mini-zoo in Braniewo in northern Poland, where they had lived for years in confined conditions on a concrete floor and with inadequate medical care. Before they were allowed to begin their journey Ewka and Gienia were tranquilized and given a thorough check up by vet Johanna Painer from Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, who has been in attendance for many such FOUR PAWS transfers. They arrived at Poznan zoo after a six hour long journey. For the moment they are being kept in an indoor enclosure whilst they acclimatise, after which time they will be released into their large outdoor area of nearly 4,000 m² in size. The enclosure was built to strict animal welfare criteria and financed with the help of FOUR PAWS.


Painer explains: “Ewka and Gienia are doing well so far. Both have some health issues, especially Ewka as she is not a young bear anymore. She is infested by parasites and has poor eyesight. Moreover, she has really bad teeth, which need to be treated, due to years of gnawing on the bars of her enclosure.”


Apart from Ewka and Gienia, two other bears still live in mini-zoo Braniewo: Pietka and Wojtusia – the last two bears in Poland that are being kept by private owners illegally. There will very soon be hope for a better life for them as well: Pietka and Wojtusia will get a new home on the completion of Poznan Zoo’s outdoor bear enclosure extension this autumn. As FOUR PAWS’ bear expert Carsten Hertwig explains: “This means that this year we can end the illegal private ownership of brown bears in Poland. This is an important step forward for animal protection, and we hope to be able to contribute to such a development in many more countries”.


Ewka and Pietka came from a Ukrainian circus and were handed over to the zoo in Braniewo the year they were born. Wojtusia and Gienia were born in Braniewo. Consequently none of the four bears have been allowed to lead lives appropriate to their species. Over the past few years FOUR PAWS has been on site on multiple occasions to carry out improvements for the four bears and to educate their keepers. For example, they worked closely with the zoo to create climbing and enrichment opportunities for the bears and to improve their diet.


But the animal keeping and husbandry is still not species appropriate, and this has left its mark strongly on the animals. Pietka, the only male bear in the group, has caused the FOUR PAWS team many worries. He was examined by the vet at the same time as Ewka and Gienia’s check-ups. Painer explains:  “We feared that he suffers from arthrosis. Luckily, his check disconfirmed our assumptions. Like the other bears he has some bad teeth, but otherwise is in a relatively fit state”.   


FOUR PAWS has been seeking improvement in the keeping of brown bears in Poland for years. In 2011 the animal protection organisation saved three animals from catastrophic conditions and brought them to the FOUR PAWS BEARSANCTUARY Müritz, North Germany. The private keeping of brown bears has been banned in Poland since 2012. In 2013 FOUR PAWS cooperated with Poznan zoo to create a species appropriate home for three more bears: Wania, Misza and Boris. They were resettled from a private animal home into a new bear enclosure in Poznan zoo, which was constructed with the support of FOUR PAWS. Unfortunately Wania and Misza have since died from illnesses, meaning that an enclosure in the facility has been left empty since the end of January 2012. Together, FOUR PAWS and Poznan Zoo decided to ready this enclosure for Ewka and Gienia. The bear enclosure will be extended by a further 1.5 hectares by autumn, and will then provide sufficient space for Pietka and Wojtusia. FOUR PAWS will continue to support the medical care of all four bears in the future.