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On this page, the latest rescue mission will be published.

On October 1st 2022, the Bears in Mind team traveled to Bosnia and Herzegovina to rescue 7-year-old bear MILA from her unfortunate predicament. For this rescue mission and professional transport we hired EKIPA, who have already transported bears for us from Ukraine, Bulgaria and Spain.

MILA spent the first 6 years of her life in a small dark cage in someone’s home, hidden from the outside world. We only tracked her down in 2021 and together with the responsible authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we ensured that the bear was eventually transferred to a temporary holding at Sarajevo Zoo. She has been here since March 2022 and during that time we sent extra funds to the zoo, to cover food and medical care and prepare her for the long journey to The Bear Forest in The Netherlands.

On Monday 3rd of October, the Bears in Mind and EKIPA teams started preparations early in the morning. The transport crate was placed and secured in front of the cage MILA was in, after which we tried to lure her into the crate with her favorite treats. But MILA wasn’t easy to catch, it turned out. After an hour of trying, it was decided to sedate her. After all, we had a tight deadline to meet: the vet’s service at the Bosnian border would end at 5:00 PM and we had to obtain signed documents from him before that time in order to cross the border with bear, into the EU. Strict controls were expected at the external border of the EU, so everything had to be 100% okay.

Unfortunately, it didn’t go as planned. After leaving Sarajevo Zoo, the team and bear had to go to the local customs office with the bear to prepare various other papers. This took many hours longer than expected. The subsequent ‘race to the border’ was to no avail, the veterinarian on duty had gone home and no one could help us anymore. Only at 8 AM next morning, on World Animal Day, did the border office open again and after a delay of more than 13 hours we were able to continue our journey again.

On the other side of the border, a major new challenge soon unfolded. Due to an error by Sarajevo Zoo in a document, the Croatian customs agent could not see the papers in the system and the Croatian border inspector / vet could not sign the EU travel documents. It took another 7 hours before we could get back on the road! Fortunately, MILA was calm all this time. The long road ahead of us, through Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany and The Netherlands, continued without any problems. Early in the morning, on Wednesday the 5th of October, we arrived at Ouwehands Zoo and the Bear Forest. MILA was unloaded smoothly by the team of bear keepers and curiously inspected her new (temporary) environment in the quarantine of the Bear Forest. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!! MILA will be examined and quarantined for the next month, before her release into her new forever home.

UPDATE July 2023:
MILA is doing great so far. She is really enjoying the space she gained in the forest, and is very curious about all the other residents living there and the new natural surroundings.

During a workshop on the reintroduction of wild bears in 2000, participants agreed that more data has to be gathered to study the long-term effects, before it can be determinded whether or not reintroducing (orphaned) bears is beneficial to the species in the wild. The workshop was a cooperation betweeen Bears in Mind and the Bear Taxon Advisory Group (Bear TAG) of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA).

Reintroduction in Italy
In the mountains in the Trentino region, wild bears from Slovenia are being introduced. Slovenia has a healthy bear population. Another possibility of reintroduction of bears is the rehabilitation of orphaned bears. In such a programme orphaned cubs, whose mother has been shot or died in an accident, are taken care of in a special rehabilitation centre. They are raised and then taught to become wild bears again. If the cubs are grown and can fend for themselves, they are released back into the wild. There is presently not enough data to make claims about the long-term effects of these reintroductions. People are still unsure as to what happens to the bears when they grow older. Time will provide the necessary data.

Especially zoos (in non-western countries where bears often still live in concrete-steel cages), governments and NGOs who want to start a large naturalistic bear enclosure or sanctuary, can enhance their knowledge by using the website: www.largebearenclosures.com It is a so-called ‘living’ document and is continually updated by using the feedback form experts in the field and experience of Bears in Mind staff.

The website is divided in three sections. The first part gives information about building a large naturalistic bear enclosure such as The Bear Forest, materials used and the design of the sanctuary (including vegetation, water management and dens). The second part focuses on managing such a big semi-natural enclosure. Aspects mentioned are among others feeding and husbandry, enrichment, education and research. In the third part extensive information on veterinary aspects regarding captive bears can be found. From castrations, parasites and anaesthesia to dental treatment. The practicality of the website ensures succesful keeping and treatment of bears with relatively basic tools.



Bear Alert is developed by the coalition of Bears in Mind and Foundation for Bears to keep track of the many captive bears, often living under horrible conditions, in order to help as many individuals as possible. Over time, Bears in Mind and Foundation for Bears have gathered information on more than 800 of these bears. Some of them have already been rescued from their miserable existence and brought to a sanctuary or zoo where proper care and space could be offered. Other bears unfortunately died before we could we do anything. And some of them still await a better life…

The individual reports about bears will be processed into a database. Short term solutions will be considered next. In most cases the foundation’s staff will consult with their local partner NGO and / or with the owner of the animal to give advise on husbandry, food and water. Simple enrichment methods for the cages are used such as leafy tree branches or a play object. These methods are often cheap and easy to create and make the life of the bear somewhat more pleasant. In other cases, if legally possible, bears will be confiscated and relocated to a better facility. 

The coalition launched Bear Alert as a new platform in 2024. More easy to use on a smartphone, with more and better direct sharing possibilities, so we can help these captive bears in a more efficient way.