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Help for zoo animals in Bulgaria

Latest investigations done by FOUR PAWS reveal the miserable conditions under which big cats, brown bears and other wild animals are kept in some Bulgarian zoos.

Confined in tiny cages, with hardly any exercise, little to no enrichment, poor professional care, and no opportunities to retreat, these animals suffer enormously. Some of these animals are the result of uncontrolled breeding and even inbreeding, resulting in serious health issues. Despite these abuses and irregularities, the Bulgarian Ministry of Environment and Water has been legalizing inappropriate wild animal facilities by granting them a zoo permit. This has been done without ensuring that they meet husbandry, conservation and education standards regulated by the EU Zoo Directive. Even the facilities which remain illegal have been allowed to continue to keep and breed wild animals. This must stop! 

FOUR PAWS calls upon the EU Commissioner for Environment to ensure that Bulgaria ends the legalization of inappropriate wild animal keeping and upon the Bulgarian Prime Minister to #CloseCruelCages. Help us to improve the lives of bears, big cats and other animals kept in Bulgarian zoos by signing our petition!

Help us to #CloseCruelCages

2020
Tigress in Haskovo zoo in Bulgaria

November 2020

Unbelievable conditions for a tigress in Haskovo zoo in Bulgaria!

At the end of 2018, a tigress was brought to Haskovo zoo in Bulgaria, supposedly to be used for breeding. She was given to the zoo by another zoo in Bulgaria – Stara Zagora zoo that acquired the tigress from the Czech Republic.

At that time, the facility in Haskovo did not have a license to operate as a zoo, but it was still open to the public, continued to keep its animals, and took in new animals including this tigress. She was placed in one of the most horrible cages we have ever seen in a Bulgarian zoo. This cage once hosted a bear that we rescued in 2009. The cage had been empty since then and was not supposed to keep any more animals. Instead of destroying the cage, the zoo maintained it. Ten years later, it became the new home of this tigress.

When a zoo fails to provide basic animal welfare conditions, it should not be allowed to take in new animals. Since the arrival of the tigress, FOUR PAWS has written several complaints to the authorities regarding her arrival and keeping conditions. Despite that the conditions in the zoo do not meet the necessary minimum standards, the zoo currently has a valid license – this means that we cannot simply seize or rescue the tigress.

Help us call upon the Bulgarian and EU authorities to make sure that facilities like these are either improved or closed and that tigers like this beautiful female get a better life! Sign our petition!

A lion suffering in a cruel cage in a zoo in Bulgaria!

November 2020

A lion suffering in a cruel cage in a zoo in Bulgaria!

A cage of 30 square meters with a low ceiling, a concrete floor and no enrichment at all. This has been the home of the lion in Kyustendil zoo for many years. The cage he is kept in is far too small according to Bulgarian legislation. Because of these cruel conditions the facility lost its license to operate nine years ago. However, it is still open for visitors today and continues to keep animals!


Since the zoo lost its license, several animals have tragically and mysteriously disappeared, including a lioness, two tigers and a bear. According to information we received through freedom of information requests, there were two tigers kept at this zoo at the beginning of 2018. However, during an inspection mid-2018, the authorities recorded only one tiger. When we visited the zoo during our investigation this year, we also could not find the bear. It is unclear what happened to these animals. Despite the many signals and the inspections in place, the conditions have not improved for the Kyustendil lion and the other animals that are still in the zoo. As the municipality that owns the facility has had a plan for its reconstruction for many years now, officials have been promising to move the lion into a better enclosure and to even perform a full reconstruction. Unfortunately, this has not happened and the Kyustendil lion continues to live this way. To help the lion, a strong will for urgent actions is needed from both the control authorities and the municipality, and we cannot simply rescue this lion.


Ask the Bulgarian authorities to ensure a better future for the Kyustendil lion and many other animals in Bulgarian zoos. Sign our petition today!

Lonely lion Lyubo

November 2020

The sad story of the lonely lion Lyubo in the Knezha zoo in Bulgaria!

Eight years ago, a lion was moved to a zoo in the town of Knezha in Northern Bulgaria. He came from Razgrad zoo where he had been used for breeding and was kept in a very small cage after his cubs were born. An old bear cage became his long-term home at the Knezha zoo. Today he continues his lonely existence at Knezha zoo in a cage that lacks the necessary enrichment. The outdoor area is less than 38 square meters in size and offers just a concrete floor, a couple of pieces of wood and a hanging tire to play with. Unfortunately, this is very common in Bulgarian zoos 🇧🇬.There are more than 20 lions in Bulgaria, of which many are kept in unsuitable conditions in zoos. Support us to stop the keeping of big cats and other animals in cruel conditions and to sign the petition now.

The lion cubs, Simba and Kossara

October 2020

The lion cubs, Simba and Kossara were born in cruel conditions in Zoo Blagoevgrad in July this year. However, their sad story began much earlier.
In 2014, four lion cubs were born in Zoo Varna in Bulgaria. One of the cubs died soon after it was born and was immediately forgotten. Тhe three other cubs were raised in the zoo and received a lot of attention while growing up. They were given the names Florentina, the Little Prince and Boyko. When the three lions became fully grown, they were moved to other zoos that didn't have species-appropriate enclosures. Boyko left to another zoo first. Then it was the turn of Florentina to go to the zoo in Blagoevgrad in 2017. Her brother, the Little Prince, joined her a year later. This resulted in the birth of the two recent lion cubs, Simba and Kossara. The zoo complies with very few of the criteria necessary to receive a license. Despite that, the Zoo Blagoevgrad and many other zoos were awarded licenses. Help us to end this deplorable situation and sign our the petition today! Sign here!

September 2020

Launch of petition against the legalization of zoos tin Bulgaria that do not comply with the EU Zoo Directive. Sign here!

Year
Lion cubs in poor condition

July 2020

FOUR PAWS is alerted about two reportedly inbred lion cubs in poor condition, born in the zoo of Blagoevgrad on July 3rd. Thanks to public mobilization, the cubs are moved to a veterinary clinic. Unfortunately, there is no suitable place to house them long-term. FOUR PAWS offers to take the cubs to FELIDA but the municipality owning the zoo in which the cubs were born does not accept this offer.

2019
Bear Vesko at DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa

November 2019

Brown bear Vesko is being transferred by FOUR PAWS from Zoo Sofia to DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa. Born in 2010, Vesko was a victim of uncontrolled breeding. In 2011, Zoo Sofia got Vesko from Zoo Varna, who wasn’t able to provide enough space and species-appropriate living conditions. In Zoo Sofia there was also not sufficient space for Vesko, therefore FOUR PAWS offered a forever home for him. Read his story here!

2018
Lion Ivan-Asen at FELIDA

March 2018

Ivan-Asen, born at Razgrad Zoo in 2014 and uncle of Terez, arrives at FELIDA Big Cat Centre in The Netherlands. He was found malnourished, dehydrated, emaciated and very anxious and there was no space for him in Bulgaria. Ivan-Asen is the result of inbreeding, causing very serious health issues. He has found a forever home here, where he will receive live-long special care. As a result of FOUR PAWS efforts, only two lions were left in Razgrad zoo, Lubo and Eva.

Lions Terez and Masoud at FELIDA

February 2018

Lion Terez arrives together with his brother Masoud, at FELIDA Big Cat Centre in The Netherlands. They were born in September 2017 at Razgrad Zoo and were abandoned by their mother. They are the result of multiple generations of inbreeding, with their parents as well as their grandparents being siblings. This has resulted in many health issues, including neurological problems affecting their walking capabilities. These health issues were causing Masoud severe pain, which could not be improved/treated anymore. We unfortunately had to say our final farewell to Masoud at the end of July 2020. Terez will continue to receive special care for the rest of his life

2017
Lions Raya and Hector from Razgrad Zoo

December 2017

With the help of FOUR PAWS, the lions Raya and Hector from Razgrad Zoo are relocated to the Zoo Sofia where pregnant lioness Raya can give birth in a safe environment and under veterinary control. A few months later the two lions are relocated to the Zoo Pazardzhik.

FOUR PAWS visits Razgrad Zoo

November 2017

FOUR PAWS visits Razgrad Zoo to conduct vet checks on their four lions, two males and two females. To prevent them from breeding, FOUR PAWS vasectomizes the two males. During this vet check, FOUR PAWS also finds lion Ivan-Asen, who is malnourished, dehydrated, emaciated and very anxious. He is the result of uncontrolled inbreeding and spent a significant time of his life in a dark, concrete cage full of his own faeces.

2015
Tigress Varvara at TIERART

September 2015

FOUR PAWS rescues tigress Varvara from a circus wagon in which she was kept since Bulgaria banned wild animals in circuses in January 2015. FOUR PAWS brings her to TIERART Big Cat Centre in Germany. Varvara is the last circus tiger that had to be rescued from Bulgaria.

Bear Standy to DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa

June 2015

After several years of efforts and negotiations, FOUR PAWS finally rescues the two bears Boyka and Standy that are kept illegally in 'Nikolovo Mini-Zoo Lipnik' near Ruse, and transfers the bears to DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa, which is run in cooperation with Fondation Brigitte Bardot. Following this action the 'Nikolovo Mini-Zoo Lipnik' was closed for good.

Bears in Bulgaria

March 2015

Upon request of the Bulgarian Ministry of Environment and in order to support the Zoo 'Kaylaka' in Pleven with renovation and improvement of its bear enclosure, FOUR PAWS transports the three young brown bears Victoria, Miladin and Kostadin from Pleven to Zoo Dobrich. Victoria and Miladin were transferred back to Pleven after construction works were finished, while male bear Kostadin stays in Zoo Dobrich. Miladin and Kostadin were vasectomized.

2009-2014

July 2014

The two brown bears Nasko and Gabriela that were kept in unsuitable conditions in Zoo Plovdiv are rescued and become residents of the DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa which is being run in cooperation by FOUR PAWS and Fondation Brigitte Bardot.

June 2011

FOUR PAWS provides medical help for the two bears Boyka and Standy in 'Nikolovo Mini-Zoo Lipnik' near Ruse. The bear Boyka was transferred for an operation to the DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa and returned to the zoo where the two bears are being kept in a small concrete enclosure under appalling keeping conditions. Within following years, FOUR PAWS fights for the rescue and relocation of the two bears to a more species-appropriate place.

February 2011

FOUR PAWS rescues 17-year-old lioness Bagira and 8-year-old tiger Martin, both born in Bulgarian zoos, and transports them to LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa where they spent their final years in species-appropriate conditions.

November 2010

After receiving information about the bad condition of lioness Bagira in the Zoo of Pavlikeni, FOUR PAWS launches a first aid mission. She is suffering from health problems due to improper feeding and environment. Shortly after the medical help provided by FOUR PAWS, Bagiras’ condition is gradually improving, and the wounds are healing.

October 2010

FOUR PAWS rescues two lionesses, Lea and Simona, that were kept in private keeping. This was a positive result of Bulgaria passing its first animal welfare legislation in 2008, making private keeping of big cats illegal. Simona was rescued from a private keeping situation at a hotel and Lea was handed over by a local businessman as a cub. Both lions are brought to LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa.

September 2009

FOUR PAWS supports the confiscation and relocation of the brown bear Vasko kept in horrendous conditions in Zoo Haskovo, the bear was later shipped to Zoo Pavlikeni.

September 2007

FOUR PAWS rescues the bear 'Lady M' from Zoo Shumen. After this rescue, no more bears are kept at this zoo. Lady M was brought to DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa, a bear sanctuary in Bulgaria which is being run by FOUR PAWS in cooperation with Fondation Brigitte Bardot, here Lady M is still enjoying her life. Being more than 40 years old she is one of the oldest bears that is currently living under our care.

Please support our pledge

 to end the legalization of inappropriate wild animal keepings and help us to improve the lives of big cats, bears and other animals kept in Bulgarian zoos by signing our petition

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