A Rescue Group Gives a Mistreated Circus Bear a New Lease on Life
Alone and trapped in a cramped cage at a Serbian circus, Napa, the bear’s life had been unfair. Though born in a zoo with some room to roam, he was sold and landed in a circus.
When the country banned the practice of wild animals in the circus, Napa was abandoned. That is until a wildlife foundation came to his rescue. But this rescue was a challenging one.
Napa’s Origin Story: From Zoo To Cage
By all accounts, Napa is a wild bear whose natural state is to roam free. But Napa has never known true freedom. Instead, he has spent his entire life in various enclosures, confined to a lifestyle hardly befitting one of nature’s largest and most remarkable creatures.
Napa was born in a zoo. While far from being free, he was allowed ample space to roam at the zoo. Unfortunately, his status at the zoo did not last, and he wound up in a small cage–captive and isolated.
Caged At A Serbian Circus
Napa left the zoo at a young age when he was sold to the Serbian circus Corona. Any semblance of freedom he experienced at the zoo was over and likely soon forgotten by the young bear. His home was now merely a tiny cage, and his life was the property of a circus.
While we can imagine the life of a wild bear like him, running free and enjoying the spoils of nature, Napa couldn’t fathom a life he had never known. His job was to perform, and he was at the mercy of the large and noisy Serbian circus crowds.
Serbia’s Ban On Circus Animals
We cannot begin to understand the life of circus animals, and certainly not for particularly large and intelligent animals like Napa. In 2009, the Serbian government put in place a ban on wild animals performing in circus acts.
This new policy was a step in the right direction. But would it be enough to give Napa the life he deserved? Sadly not. The circus did nothing to change Napa’s fate. Instead of sending him to a nature reserve or selling him back to the zoo, they simply left him in his small cage.
Help May Soon Be On The Way
To Napa, little had changed. Although he was no longer subjected to performing in front of audiences, he still remained in his cage, more confined than ever. The poor bear must have assumed this was to be his life forever.
Fortunately, unbeknownst to Napa, help was on the way. A charity organization had received word of Napa’s dire situation. They vowed to rescue the bear who had been wronged all his life. Their resolve would be Napa’s salvation.
FOUR PAWS: The Charity Takes Action
The organization involved was the FOUR PAWS foundation. FOUR PAWS is an acclaimed international animal welfare organization that boasts the noble mission of finding “sustainable solutions for wild animals in need.” Napa fit their target to a tee.
Though the foundation was now aware of Napa and his plight, his sad state of affairs was far from over. Removing an animal like Napa from his circumstances was no easy task. The foundation would need outside cooperation and assistance to succeed in rescuing Napa.
Taking Legal Action To Save Napa
FOUR PAWS believed the logical step was to take legal action on Napa’s behalf. The organization sought legal representation and pleaded the bear’s case to numerous local officials, to no avail. Everyone they spoke with claimed they were unable to assist in Napa’s fight for freedom.
This was a major setback for the volunteers at FOUR PAWS. They were discouraged and feared they were up against too much–it was them vs. the circus. Yet, they remained determined to go the distance for Napa, who had suffered so greatly in life.
A Breakthrough Year: 2016, Napa Was Released
Napa toiled away in his caged prison at the circus as the years passed. But in October 2016, after lengthy legal woes, FOUR PAWS, along with local officials, emerged victorious in their battle to get Napa out of his cage. Napa was set to be released from the Corona circus grounds.
But this news didn’t mean a happy ending for dear Napa just yet. Though he was technically allowed his freedom, there was no place for him to go. A wild animal needs great care to be rehabilitated, and nothing was available to Napa then. So instead, he took temporary refuge at the Palic zoo in Serbia.
A Forever Home For Napa
The Palic zoo served as Napa’s home for two years before FOUR PAWS was able to secure the perfect and permanent place for Napa to live out his days. The organization didn’t wish to have Napa bouncing from place to place all his life, so they were very particular with their research and subsequent decision.
Like with everything so far in Napa’s life, this wouldn’t be an easy transition. So the wonderful people at FOUR PAWS buckled down once more for the final push to ensure Napa’s freedom.
Off To Switzerland: The Arosa Bear Foundation
Napa’s final destination was to be the newly founded Arosa Bear Foundation in Switzerland. Of course, the distance was the biggest obstacle. This mega bear sanctuary was built with the mission to rehabilitate and release bears into the “wild.”
The Arosa Bear Foundation is enclosed, but that is to protect all the bears that cannot live in their real natural habitat due to prolonged captivity or other similar reasons rendering them unable to re-adapt.
A Sanctuary Pioneer: Napa Is The First Resident
The completion of the Arosa Bear Foundation had been much anticipated since the project was first proposed in 2010. It took until 2018 for the sanctuary to be completed, and Napa was to be the first resident of this bear oasis!
Napa’s journey to the sanctuary would be a long one that would require sustained medical sedation measures in order to keep him calm. After all, a road trip is far from normal for a bear, and it was to be expected Napa would be frightened.
The Long Road Home: 28 Hours And 870 Miles To Arosa
Putting Napa on a plane would be a logistical nightmare and was out of the question. Instead, he was to make his trip by road. With the assistance of an experienced veterinarian, Napa was carefully sedated and loaded into his transport vehicle. The first half of his journey would be spent in a van, while the second half would include a cable car to the sanctuary.
This was a large-scale undertaking, and by the time all was said and done, Napa had traveled 870 miles in 28 hours!
Resolving Last-Minute Issues
A lot was done along the way to ensure Napa had a safe and comfortable journey from Serbia to Switzerland. He had round-the-clock vet care, and this gentle giant got his first taste of air-conditioning during his ride!
The good people at FOUR PAWS had already done so much for Napa, but a few matters still needed attending. Once the organization could clear those up, Napa would finally be home–forever.
A Heavy Obstacle: Lifting Napa’s 1,200-Pound Crate
Aside from organizing his roadway transportation, the most pressing obstacle was lifting Napa’s crate. The crate was massive, weighing in at 1,200 pounds, and it needed to be transferred from the van to the cable car that would lead up to the bear sanctuary.
Of course, FOUR PAWS could be counted on to come through with a solution. A member of the organization was quoted as saying, “Transporting [him] from the bear ambulance to the gondola was a logistical masterpiece. I am very happy that everything went so well.” We agree!
July 4th: A Symbolic Date
Napa, the bear, was finally home. He arrived at the bear sanctuary on July 4th, 2018–a significant date regarding freedom. As American citizens celebrated their July 4th Independence Day, Napa celebrated his independence from a lifetime of oppressive captivity.
When he arrived, he needed to spend time in a separate enclosure that would allow him to adapt to the new world he found himself in. Napa needed to be eased into his new environment. Otherwise, he could potentially become overstimulated and upset.
Napa Lives Large: The Spoiled Bear Of Arosa
Napa was living large during his period of adjustment inside the adaptation enclosure. After all, he deserved it! Napa received all the doting attention a bear could hope to have. His food consisted of meat, fruits, and vegetables–a balanced diet to help him regain his strength.
And believe it or not, Napa had the first bath of his life at the Arosa Bear Sanctuary! His bath was as symbolic as it was hygienically necessary. He could finally wash away his torturous past.
His Final Moments Before Release
When the staff at Arosa felt Napa had fully adjusted, they began to organize his release into the sanctuary’s primary enclosure. When the time came, it was undoubtedly a big moment for Napa. He stood in the holding area, eager and curious about his surroundings. In the distance stood the Arosa Mountains–his new home.
He was a bear on the cusp of his final liberation. Ahead of him was the pure, raw nature-scape meant for a creature like him. It was a beautiful moment to behold.
Napa Became A Swimming Sensation
The sanctuary site was lush and majestic in the eyes of a bear. Set on roughly an acre of land; the area boasted mountains, forests, and ponds for Napa to explore. This was bear heaven, so to say.
Interestingly, Napa took to the water with ease. The bear had only just had his first bath a few weeks ago, but now he was swimming every day! He was like a fish in water; it was his favorite spot.
August 2018: The Sanctuary Is Open To All
Napa had the unique privilege of being able to mull about the vast sanctuary in solitude for a few weeks before the Arosa Bear Sanctuary officially opened. Though he wasn’t alone for long, it was another important adjustment period, as he had been alone all his life and needed to settle into his environment independently.
The Arosa Bear Sanctuary opened in August 2018, ready and willing to welcome other bears who needed them. In fact, the area can house five bears in three enclosures.
More Bears To Come
Since its inception, the Arosa Bear Sanctuary has welcomed many bears into its arms. It is known the world over as a safe haven for mistreated bears. They have even opened their doors to the public by organizing tours of the grounds along with educational resources regarding the sanctuary’s resident bears and their backgrounds.
Napa is a fan favorite as the foundation’s first bear. His heartbreaking tale captures the hearts of visitors and, most importantly, serves as a reminder that animals deserve a chance.
Napa Is A Natural
Though life in the sanctuary doesn’t technically mean Napa is a bear in the wild now, it’s still safe to say this bear is a “natural at nature.” He is now a social, strong, and confident bear. He has come so far from the Napa who lived for years caged and almost forgotten at a circus.
As for the Arosa Bear Sanctuary, we can confidently say they saved Napa’s life and deserve all the praise and support in the world!