Kasandra 1
The old blind bear, Cassandra

Finally the day has arrived: the last three "dancing bears" have been rescued!

In the end three fortunate bears - Cassandra, Seida and Bozhana, the first two from the Pozarevac area and the third from Krusevac - were transferred on January 27th to their temporary refuge at the bear park, Belitsa in Bulgaria. In spite of many  problems, which the entire operation encountered on the way, the original team was augmented by numerous additions called in to solve administrative and other difficulties. Thanks to this wonderful response the rescue of these three bears, who have spent years in conditions,unseemly for any living being not to mention prohibited by the law of this country and international conventions, was achieved.
Serbian three bears will now spend a period at the bear park in Bulgaria which was established and is administered by the organization "Vier Pfoten" (Four Paws) and the "Brigitte Bardot" foundation. The Serbian authorities responsible have signed a contract with "Vier Pfoten" to finance the establishment and maintenance of a park in Serbia for bears ill-treated in captivity.

"Vier Pfoten" have, presently in their care, three parks for bears with 38 bears - 6 in Austria, 8 in Germany and 24 in Bulgaria while in Rumania they run a rescue project for orphaned bear cubs. The first residents at our future park will be our three bears now in Belitsa. This park will also be a center for "dancing bears" from surrounding countries as well as bears held illegally in captivity and against all conventions protecting endangered species. The most probable location of this rescue park, which will also have tourist attraction, is Mokra Gora where details are being negotiated with our well-known film director Emir Kusturica.
Serbian three abused bears were transferred with chip implants and all the required documentation. The entire project was realized together with enormous involvement and support from the Ministry for the Environment and Planning, the Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management, the Institute for the Protection of Nature in Serbia, Maria and Goran Grujin from Svilajnac (who have spent the past six years visiting, worrying about these animals and sometimes even feeding them), people from the organization "Vier Pfoten" (who withstood all the pressures and problems and persisted in their plan to save Serbian bears  and further to establish a rescue park for Serbia in accord with World standards) and the society "Sloboda za Zivotinje"  (Freedom for Animals).

Without the international activity of this society, without an adequate media campaign and communication with the authorities with whose assistance this whole project was coordinated and all problems solved - nothing would have been achieved. 

In particular we would like to thank Carsten Herwig, Bears Project Leader at FOUR PAWS,  without whose persistence and commited involvement this entire action would never have been completed.

We are also grateful to Jovan Memedovic, RTS journalist and author of the documentary films "Completely Natural", for his interest in this theme which we will be able to watch on the next emission of this series.  
The action was also followed by TV "Imago" Germany, who have the exclusive rights of distribution the filming to those who are interested. We are grateful also to inspectors, transport operators and all others not mentioned up to now who took part in the operation.

One thing is certain: no bears will "dance" again in Serbia. This finally becomes a thing of the past.

Kasandra 4

The Course of Operation Transfer
In the early hours of January 26th, the rescue operation was held up for several hours because of difficulties in obtaining the remaining documents and signatures from those authorized at the Ministry for the Environment and Planning, the Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management as well as documents which had to be signed by local hunting and veterinary inspectors. During this period members of the rescue team and those accompanying team waited at the first location in the Pozarevac area. It was almost midday when the operation got under way.

Cassandra (who is blind and between 20 and 30 year old) has for years been dragged from place to place by her "owner" who attached a chain to her cheek and forced her to "dance" to the accompaniment of his drunken brawling, supposedly music, she responded by moaning and howling with pain and stood up on her hind legs… She attempted to defend herself from time to time by hitting her tormentor with her paw. She succeeded to knock him over sometimes so he then kept her at a distance by poking her with a stick (probably used also to hit her when nobody was looking.)
When not on exhibition she was tied with a short chain to a tree, in all weather, without any shelter whatsoever, on the bare ground that was often muddy. Tormented, thin, dirty, she is just a shadow of the creature she should be. When she was taken to the transport pen she immediately tucked into the apples, carrots and bread which had been placed there for her. The gypsies had "nourished" her like themselves with more beer and shnaps (rakija) than the food she should have had.

Later, at the second location also in the vicinity of Pozarevac, we found a bear Seida in considerably better condition. She was loaded without difficulty in the pen of the special large ambulance van, which arrived from Belitsa in Bulgaria, with its specially trained assistant staff and veterinarians. According to her "owners", Seida had been with them nine years.
It was already dark when the team arrived to pick up the third bear, Bozana, in the Krusevac area. Only after several hours of time wasted with people like the veterinarian who refused, outside of working hours, to sign the documents required for crossing the border. Finally with intervention from a higher official level this person consented to sign and seal the last document required.

Bozana, who is the most aggressive of the three bears was loaded into her pen with difficulty. She did not allow even her owners to approach. She is the youngest of the three and came into the hands of these gypsies six years ago. They say they bought her from the zoo in Bitola, Macedonia.
Here we note that these bears have been held illegally for years and even decades in terrible conditions in spite of, an article of the hunting law (prohibiting the holding of wild animals in captivity), the criminal law (article 269, defines a prison sentence of six to three years for tormenting and killing animals, particularly protected species) and other laws which are frequently not applied.
Even with all the required documents in hand the entire convoy with bears, accompanied by representatives of our ministries was held up over night and in the late morning hours was still on the Serbian border. The bears traveled well when on the road but became nervous when standing in one place as seen by the rocking of the vehicle. Finally they crossed the Serbian border but problems awaited them on the Bulgarian side… The administrative and organizational problems were finally solved around 3 PM and the convoy was free to continue to Belitsa.

The bears were accompanied throughout the entire journey by representatives of our ministries. 

The bear population in Serbia is threatened with extinction. The exact numbers in the wild is not known. One assessment is 10, although official reports talk of around 50, while in Slovenia, a much smaller country, there are between 400 and 500 hundred brown bears. The greatest problem in our country is poaching - illegal bear hunting which is even included in the programs of some tourist organizations, sometimes openly, sometimes surreptitiously . . .

Here we would like to draw public attention also to another serious problem. At all three gypsy settlements where bears were collected, the extended families have from 10 to even 25 children (two or more families with all generations living together), living in impossible conditions, without a source of income. These children (who do not go to school) as well as most of the adults are illiterate…  They have no essential documents, so for example there was difficulty, when writing the reports on the confiscation of bears, to identify the person who should sign it. A signature is in most cases by fingerprint… In the absence of adequate involvement on the part of the authorities they are incapable of integrating with society. It is essential to organize education for them and other forgotten people in Serbia. Only in this way can we improve overall standards of living and actualise the rights of the human population and of animals.

Kasandra 5
Cassandra - the last "dancing"

Kasandra 3

Inspectors are filling up the protocol

Seida 1
Seida (Seida Marco)

Seida 2
Seida has to get into the transport cage

Seida 3
Seida is in the transport cage

Bozana 1
The third bear, Bozhana, in the dark corner of the backyard. Of course, the candle could not help to see her, but the small Gypsy Giani wanted to help.

Kombi 1
The special bear vehicle from bear park in Bulgaria, Belitsa


Video (in Serbian):



Four Paws 1
Four Paws 2

Vier Pfoten 1
Vier Pfoten 2

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