Former circus bear Jambolina explores nature in the Swiss alps for the first time

From the bleak Ukrainian circus to the snowy Swiss Alps

FOUR PAWS brought Jambolina to Arosa Bear Sanctuary in December 2020


Arosa, 31 May 2021 – Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS rescued 12-year-old bear Jambolina from a tiny cage in a garage in Ukraine in December 2020 and brought her to Arosa Bear Sanctuary in Switzerland. FOUR PAWS runs the sanctuary together with the Arosa Bears Foundation. Prior to her rescue, Jambolina had to perform in a circus. Now she can live a species-appropriate life in the Swiss alps. After years of captivity, Jambolina recovered her hibernation instinct – a major milestone – and got used to her new surroundings during the adjustment phase in the indoor enclosure. Finally, on 29 May, Jambolina explored her large outdoor area for the very first time.

Over the past few weeks, Jambolina was able to observe the outdoor enclosure at Arosa Bear Sanctuary from indoors. From there, she could also see fellow rescued bears Meimo and Amelia spending time outside. Finally, Jambolina was ready to explore the spacious area with its streams, ponds and trees as well. During this time, Meimo and Amelia were in another part of the enclosure. Jambolina was initially reserved and only proceeded outside cautiously.

"We expected this behaviour and it is quite natural. Scepticism is an important survival strategy for animals and humans," 

says Dr Hans Schmid, Scientific Director at Arosa Bear Sanctuary. 

After the first hesitant steps, Jambolina became more curious and took her time sniffing and exploring everything. Soon there was no stopping her adventurous spirit and she headed for the pond and took her first bath in her pond. Afterwards, she went on a big discovery tour in the outdoor area, sprinted across the extensive grounds and visibly enjoyed moving around in the natural environment. Not much is known about her past, therefore the experts at the bear sanctuary are also curious about her further development. "When Jambolina is familiar with the natural terrain after a few weeks, we will let her meet Meimo first and then also Amelia to see how they get along," explains Dr Schmid.

Leaving the circus life behind

In the past, Jambolina performed as a circus bear in Ukraine to entertain audiences. Performing tricks in a ballet skirt was part of her daily routine. After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, her trainer was no longer able to hold circus performances, so he kept the brown bear in a cage in his garage that was far too small. For the majority of her life, Jambolina had no opportunity to live out her natural needs. Now Jambolina is finding her way back to her instincts step by step in Arosa. After being rescued by FOUR PAWS in December 2020, she had her first well-deserved hibernation this winter and is now also learning natural behaviour in the 28,000 m² outdoor enclosure at Arosa Bear Sanctuary.

Happy faces on the visitor platform

Jambolina's first steps were eagerly watched not only by the animal caretakers, but also by visitors and the FOUR PAWS team. "Moments like these always give me goosebumps and it's just incredibly nice to see how we can give the bears a new life," says Alexandra Mandoki, Country Director of FOUR PAWS Switzerland. The team at Arosa Bear Sanctuary is also proud to offer the former circus bear a life as close to nature as possible in the middle of the Arosa mountains. Pascal Jenny, President of the Arosa Bears Foundation describes the release of Jambolina into the outdoor enclosure as a "highly emotional process". For him, animal welfare is the top priority at Arosa Bear Sanctuary. A careful introduction to the natural environment is therefore crucial and Jambolina's development and wellbeing will continue to be closely monitored.

Arosa Bear Sanctuary opened in summer 2018 and is a cooperation project of FOUR PAWS, Arosa Tourism and Arosa Mountain Railways. FOUR PAWS rescued 14-year-old bears Amelia and Meimo in February 2019. Arosa Bear Sanctuary is currently open at weekends. The adventure trail and the visitor platform offer the possibility to observe the bears in the outdoor enclosure. The animal caretakers on-site also provide information about the bears' development and their individual personalities. From the start of the summer season on 12 June 2021, it will be open daily.

Support the bears at Arosa Bear Sanctuary

Katharina Braun

Katharina Braun

Team Lead Public Relations

+43 (0) 664 885 33 270

VIER PFOTEN International 
Linke Wienzeile 236
1150 Vienna, Austria

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FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions.

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