In 2009 a bear alert came in about two bears being kept in a private zoo next to a waste recycling plant with a landfill near the Spanish town of Orihuela. At that time Alertis was preparing the transport of four former circus bears that were kept at the so-called rescue center ‘El Arca de Noé’ near Benidorm in Spain. These four bears were destined for our Bear Forest in the Netherlands. Being in the area, we visited the waste recycling plant for a closer inspection. We knew from the local government that the ‘zoo’ was already closed for the public due to several incidents, public health risk and serious animal welfare problems. We managed to have a look at the animals and what we found there was even worse than expected…
Animals were kept in appalling conditions, in the stench of the waste recycling plant and landfill, in barren and extremely dirty cages. We counted not two, but four unhealthy looking brown bears. There were also two tigers, standing and laying down in their own piled-up excrements. There was a male lion, barely capable of standing due to malnutrition. There was a larger enclosure with a variety of species: zebra, llama, two bison, a hippo, ostrich and several donkeys. All kept together, causing a lot of stressful and stereotypic behaviour. Approximately 200 animals were kept under horrific conditions at the private zoo at that time.
Back in the office in the Netherlands, we contacted the Spanish authorities and several local NGOs to find out more about the situation and talk about possible solutions. The so-called zoo at the company Proambiente was called “one of the worst” animal keeping facilities in Spain! Several animals, amongst others a tigress and her cub, had recently died of starvation according to FAADA, a Spanish animal rights organization. The owner, a controversial businessman, was suspected of various illegal practices. With regards to the animals, unfortunately all official documents were legal, so immediate confiscation was not possible. At that time there was little we could do for the bears and the other animals of Proambiente, and the owner was not willing to cooperate.
The situation was getting worse: http://youtu.be/vpm3YIu0R6w
Fortunately for the remaining animals, the owner was arrested. The so-called zoo was finally shut down this autumn! FAADA and several others made sure the remaining animals were quickly relocated to several facilities throughout Spain. The bears as well. And there were not four, but five bears in total! One couple managed to have a cub earlier this year, even though the circumstances they lived in were appalling.
The cub has been relocated to a wildlife park near the city of Bilbao: http://www.karpinabentura.com/es/animales/animales.html
The four bears have been transferred to a wildlife park in the Spanish Pyrenees, Parque Faunístico Lacuniacha:
Unfortunately, these five bears are not the only captive bears in trouble. Seven other brown bears need to be rescued in three different facilities throughout the province Catalonia alone. Alertis will help the local authorities and NGOs in finding suitable places for these animals.