FOUR PAWS has successfully transferred two of the last restaurant bears from Albania to Arosa Bear Sanctuary in Switzerland.
Before the bears' arrival to their forever home, the two 13-year-old bears spent their lives in a private mini zoo near a restaurant in Albania. After four days and a 1,513 mile journey through five countries, the two bears arrived safely in Arosa Bear Sanctuary.
Meimo and Amelia, the names given to the bears when they arrived at the bear sanctuary, were accompanied by a team consisting of FOUR PAWS employees, representatives from Arosa Bear Sanctuary, the Arosa Mountain Railways, and veterinarian Dr Frank Göritz from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW). The transport began on the morning of January 29th with the anaesthetization of the bears so they could be medically examined and loaded into transport crates.
Ideally, the rescue would have taken place in the Spring when weather conditions improved, but the rescue was expedited after FOUR PAWS learned the restaurant owner was adamant about no longer keeping any more animals because of the inappropriate conditions. Since FOUR PAWS' goal is to help bears live free of suffering, our team was ready to assist. After the bears were loaded for transport, the bears' approximately 196 square foot enclosure was immediately destroyed.
When the bears were awake again, they were taken on the journey of a lifetime. They traveled form Albania to Greece via Macedonia and then by ferry to Italy. From Italy, the journey then began to Switzerland and into the mountains of Arosa.
But the journey wasn't without it's obstacles.
The extreme winter conditions in snow-covered Arosa presented the team with a number of logistical challenges, the most obvious one being: how would the team make it up the mountain in the deep snow?
But the team had assistance. The bears were brought up the mountain on a gondola and then received assistance from a snow groomer who brought the bears from the gondola on the remainder of the journey to Arosa Bear Sanctuary.
“We are proud that everything went smoothly and that we were able to overcome all challenges successfully,” remarked Carsten Hertwig, Bear Expert at FOUR PAWS.
The transfer went without any delays or surprises despite the extreme snow. Amelia and Meimo seemed to like their new home already. The two were very interested in exploring their new surroundings and have already made themselves comfortable after their adventurous journey.
What will happen next?
Former Serbian circus bear Napa has been living at Arosa Bear Sanctuary since July 2018 and was the first inhabitant. He was puzzled when two new neighbors suddenly arrived. Curiously, he watched their arrival from his separated enclosure area.
In the future, Napa and the two newcomers will have the opportunity to sniff each other through the fence. Meimo and Amelia settle in in an indoor enclosure; due to the current snow height, the outside enclosure is closed until further notice.
For more information on Amelia and Meimo's journey to a new life, check out our podcast episode!