Bear Riku to BEAR SANCTUARY Belitsa

Dec 2016


Rescue Bear Riku

FOUR PAWS brings Albanian bear Riku to BEAR SANCTUARY Belitsa


In December 2016, FOUR PAWS received an urgent request for help from the Albanian Veterinary Inspectorate. In a small mountain village, a young bear was said to be in imminent danger. The owner was no longer willing nor able to care for the animal.

When the FOUR PAWS team arrived, they found the bear chained in a small shack next to the owner’s house. He was very distressed, and in panic was trying to free himself from the tight chain. FOUR PAWS acted immediately and contacted Tirana Zoo, which was willing to take over the bear temporarily.

Riku, whose young life has been marked by suffering, was safely transferred on 3 May 2017 by a FOUR PAWS team to BEAR SANCTUARY Belitsa, run by FOUR PAWS in cooperation with FONDATION BRIGITTE BARDOT. Due to international transport regulations, the journey went via Macedonia and Greece. This meant many hours on the road for one of Europe’s saddest bears and the FOUR PAWS team. Finally, they arrived at Riku's new home in Bulgaria.

“Riku was first released into the indoor area of his enclosure. Once he had recovered from his long journey and got used to his new environment, we released him into the outdoor enclosure. Watching him experience his new home was a wonderful moment for all of us. He was so relaxed and peaceful! Our aim is to eventually socialise Riku with other bears. When we can start this process though, entirely depends on his character and behaviour.”

FOUR PAWS bear expert Carsten Hertwig

Watch Riku's emotional journey and see how content he is with his new lifelong home!

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Pictures of Riku's rescue and his new home

June 2020 | Bears Riku and Jeta reunited

It seems like they couldn't wait to catch up where they left off before hibernation. 

If you remember, last year we announced how these two bears were socialised and were enjoying every moment at their forever home at BEAR SANCTUARY Belitsa. Indeed, they have had a great summer and autumn together, however, due to Riku's energetic personality (wanting to play all the time) and Jeta's preference of preparing for hibernation, our on-site team decided to separate them during winter. Following that, both bears have had a peaceful winter and hibernated for a few good months.

However as the mating season was approaching, by the beginning of spring, the team decided to reunite them again and since then they are together all the time.

Watching them being so happy, it's an inspiration for all of us, and almost impossible to imagine that before their rescue in 2017, they were known as 'two of Europe's saddest' bears.

Nowadays, they live in harmony with each other, and their cohabitant Nastasja. When Jeta wants some quiet time, he then tries to bond with Nastasja.

Note: Any advertisements that may appear during the viewing of this video are unrelated to FOUR PAWS. We assume no liability for this content.

A step towards ending the private keeping of bears in Albania

In October 2019, with over 30 bears rescued from bad keeping over the past years and pressure from advocating and campaigning by several national and international NGOs incl. FOUR PAWS, Albania makes a big change to toughen measures against environmental crimes.

The 'Law on Wild Fauna Protection and Preservation' was amended and as result, a 'National Council on Wild Fauna' is to be established with the task to mainly monitor and contribute to the implementation of the new law. Although the law does not explicitly legally ban the keeping of bears in Albania, there and only very few bears remaining in bad keeping in Albania. For the remaining bears and other native wildlife species, there are plans by the Albanian government to establish a sanctuary close to Tirana.

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