Belitsa exhibition at BEAR SANCTUARY Belitsa

BEAR SANCTUARY Belitsa – 20 Year Anniversary and a New Name

FOUR PAWS opens exhibition in remembrance of the last “dancing bears”


Sofia, 4 May 2022 – To mark the new beginning for the formerly called DANCING BEARS PARK FOUR PAWS, the global animal welfare organisation, launched an exclusive exhibition which commemorates the long and remarkable story of the sanctuary.

The official opening of the photo exhibition “The Rescued Ones: 20 Years of History" happened on the 27th of April in the exhibition space of the Bridge of Lovers next to the National Palace of Art, located in the capital of Bulgaria Sofia.

Today, BEAR SANCTUARY Belitsa turns a new page in its long history with a brand-new name, logo and website. The sanctuary which is currently home of 19 bears will continue its mission to rescue bears that suffer under direct human influence and live in adverse conditions.

Among the official guests at the FOUR PAWS event were the Bulgarian minister of Environment and Water – Borislav Sandov, the chairman of the Sofia Municipal Council – Georgi Georgiev and the mayor of Belitsa – Radoslav Revanski.

"Through the years you {Four Paws} have not only rescued, provided home and cared for former dancing bears, you also helped our entire society by educating us on the problems so that this cruel practice can come to an end. We work together on many projects, because we share similar views and beliefs. One of them is helping the Ukrainian refugees – while we are doing our best for them you provide help for their pets. I’m looking forward to the future, because we still have a lot of work to do.",

Georgi Georgiev, Chairman of the Sofia Municipal Council said.

In 60 photos displays, "The Rescued ones: 20 Years of History" presents the dramatic life of the bears from BELITSA BEAR SANCTUARY. The exhibition highlights the history of the sanctuary and its team since its creation, telling the stories of the bears that found their salvation in the sanctuary. Other pictures depict  the sadness  of the lives the bears lived before being rescued. In his opening speech the Minister of Environment and Water Borislav Sandov said: "I am part of the generation that remembers vividly the dancing bears. I remember the chains with which the bears were bound.“


Prior to 2000, the keeping of 'dancing bears' used to be a common attraction in Bulgaria. Although the torturous trainings were banned in 1998, there were still bears being forced to perform. In 2000, DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa (now BEAR SANCTUARY Belitsa) was established by FOUR PAWS and FONDATION BRIGITTE BARDOT, as a permanent location for housing former 'dancing bears' that were rescued by FOUR PAWS. In 2007 the last “dancing bears” in Bulgaria were rescued by FOUR PAWS and brought to the sanctuary.

Furthermore, in 2009 FOUR PAWS also saved the last Serbian 'dancing bears' and brought them to the sanctuary. In 2017 FOUR PAWS finally also rescued the last dancing bear from Albania and thus ended this cruel form of captivity in Europe for good. In recent years, the sanctuary also adopted several bears rescued from inappropriate conditions in zoos or private collections in both Bulgaria and in neighbouring countries on the Balkan Peninsula – Serbia, North Macedonia, Albania, Croatia.

As there are no more 'dancing bears' to rescue, the name changed to BEAR SANCTUARY Belitsa, but the park will continue with its mission – rescuing bears from substandard zoos and private captivity, to ensure they receive proper care in a safe environment.

Bear Riku at BSB

Learn more about BEAR SANCTUARY Belitsa

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Michael Kellner

Michael Kellner

PR International Officer

+43 (1) 89 50 20 20

+43 (0) 664 504 38 97

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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