07/05/19 Matija Adjusts to Living in a Refuge

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The bear that lost a mother in February arrives to the Kuterevo shelter for young bears

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- All bears in private captivity are expected to be released and relocated to shelters

After a motherless bear, that was named Matija, was found on the road in February this year, he was placed at the Zagreb Zoo. Now that Matija has grown, it has become clear that his return to nature is no longer possible because he spent a crucial period growing up separated from his natural habitat and his mother, so the only solution for him is living in a refuge.

According to information from Ivan Crnković, the manager of the shelter in Kuterevo, during first days since his arrival from the zoo Matija has been howling intensively, and he is also prone to sucking his paws, which can lead to self-injury. Losing his mother, the cub had a difficult start in life, but experts believe that, with a lot of work and the help of experienced staff, the problems in his development will be overcome and that he will be successfully rehabilitated and adapted in the Kuterevo refuge.

Bears suffer greatly in captivity, therefore, the new Animal Protection Act in Croatia prohibits their captivity, but allows keeping them in shelters and, unfortunately, in zoos. "Bear shelters are the only places that mimic their natural habitat, in which they can have the company of other members of their species and live life without human disturbance," says Animal Friends Association, which has expressed concern for Matija in recent months and urged those in charge to move him to a bear shelter.

The current state of popular Matija confirms that the concern was justified. That bears find small confined spaces extremely difficult to tolerate shows the case of a female bear Nelly, who lived in the captivity of one family in Cerna. Poor Nelly failed to welcome the transfer to the shelter because she died last month at a profound age and with much suffering, after spending her entire life in inappropriate conditions, without health care that would reduce her health problems and intense anguish and agony.

Other illegally and improperly kept bears in Croatia are still waiting to go to refuge. All of them show, first and foremost, psychological problems in the form of stereotypical behavior resulting from stress and lack of natural stimuli, but physical disabilities such as injuries from attacks of other animals, inflamed eyes, difficulty in moving, etc. are also noticeable.

All these suffering animals, including bears at Macola, should soon be moved to a shelter in Kuterevo or to one of the foreign shelters, through a program of displacement of all bears captive in Croatia. The Four Paws international organization is in constant contact with the staff of the Ministry of Agriculture, and they are working together to implement a plan agreed upon in April this year. The Four Paws has taken over the entire organization and financing of the plan for the removal of captive bears, from veterinary inspections to logistics and housing, and is working intensively in collaboration with the Animal Friends Association to prepare transportation and relocate the remaining bears.

Once this plan is implemented, all domestic and foreign organizations that have repeatedly received reports of angry tourists about holding the bears captive will be relieved, because keeping wildlife in captivity is incomprehensible and unacceptable in the civilized world. It is commendable that the Ministry of Agriculture, in agreement with the Four Paws Organization, has guaranteed that private individuals will no longer be allowed to keep the bears, as already predicted by the Animal Welfare Act.

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