03/14/19 Bear Cub Matija Does Not Belong in a Zoo, He Belongs in Nature or in a Sanctuary!

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Animal Friends appeal to the Ministry of Agriculture not to domesticate the cute bear cub

- Zoo is the worst solution; petting and photographing reduces his chances of returning to nature

Animal Friends Croatia sent a letter to the Ministry of Agriculture, motivated by the public interest in the future of the bear cub Matija, who was taken to the Zagreb Zoo last month after being found in the middle of the road without his mother. The helpless little bear immediately gained great affection of the public, which expects his happy return to nature and certainly not a permanent captivity at the zoo. Animal Friends consider it extremely important that his domestication through holding him in arms, petting, photographing and exposing to the visitors, during his stay at the zoo, is prevented as much as possible.

"The cub is not a cute toy and he doesn't belong in a zoo enclosure, which would be the worst solution for him in the long run. Both the public and the bear experts support the opinion that it is necessary to try and ensure his return to nature or, if that will not be possible, placement at the bear sanctuary in Kuterevo or abroad. Bears are not pets, they are wild animals who should live in their natural habitat", said Snježana Klopotan, Project Coordinator at Animal Friends.

Animal Friends appealed to the Ministry to keep taking care of the bear cub artificially at the zoo to try enabling his soon return to nature, without touching or getting him used to people and exposing him to the public as a zoo attraction. Unlike zoos, sanctuaries for bears are places that mimic their natural habitat, where they can live in the company of other members of their species and live their life without being disturbed by humans.

The Animal Protection Act prohibits holding bears in captivity, except in zoos and sanctuaries. This provision is interesting to the Croatian public because of the many years and reports of illegal bear holdings in the back of the "Macola" restaurant in Korenica and other similar cases of holding bears in captivity by private individuals. In order to successfully implement the Act, the international organization Four Paws signed the Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Agriculture last year. The Memorandum states that in December 2018 Ministry will identify all bears living in unlawful captivity in Croatia and shall, after the inspection of their keeping, relocate them to licensed sanctuaries and bear rehabilitation centers. The Ministry also guarantees that the private individuals would not be allowed to keep new bears.

Animal Friends support the collaboration between Four Paws and the Ministry and consider it an effective way of handling the problem of keeping bears in captivity and implementation of the law. Four Paws had committed to assisting the Ministry in finding suitable permanent accommodation for the bears, organizing their transportation and covering all costs associated with their transportation and relocation.

In Matija's case, this cooperation is a great opportunity for his happy future, which many people want for this charming little bear which warmed up their hearts. "Should his adaptation in e.g. National Park Risnjak fail, where there have already been cases of successful preparation of animals for the wilderness and their return to nature, which can be monitored after equipping the bear with a satellite collar, it is necessary, in cooperation with the bear experts, to enable Matija to continue his life either at the bear sanctuary in Kuterevo or, with the help of Four Paws, in a sanctuary abroad. It would be disgraceful for Matija to end up in the zoo permanently, and there is no justification for it", concludes Snježana Klopotan.

Animal Friends believe that the Ministry of Agriculture will not make any decisions about the fate of the bear cub without first consulting with animal protection organizations and professor Đuro Huber from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Zagreb, who is an internationally renowned bear expert, as well as with his associates.

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