Bear Sanctuaries Around The World

Bears are under threat from man’s activities the world over. Their habitats are being destroyed as forests are cut down to make way for towns, cities and agricultural crops; they are hunted for sport and as pests; they are killed for their skin, paws, meat and gall bladders, and they are caught alive for use in a variety of entertainments.

All 8 species of bears are kept in captivity for various reasons such as in zoos, in circuses, in wildlife parks and as pets. Thousands of bears are kept in appalling captive conditions on bear farms in Asia, for use in bear-baiting events and also as dancing bears.

There are now many campaigns under way around the world to protect bears from cruelty in the wild and in captivity, and one of the methods becoming more widely used to enable the rescue of bears from illegal and cruel exploitation is the creation of Bear Sanctuaries.

A bear sanctuary is a large forested enclosure, surrounded by protective fences, where bears rescued from poor captive conditions can spend their remaining years in a natural environment. Here they can (often for the first time in their lives) swim in water pools, climb trees and dig hibernation dens in the earth.

In the majority of cases the rescued bears are old, have teeth, claw or eyesight problems, and have been in captivity too long to consider trying to release them back to the wild as they simply would not survive. The sanctuary is therefore like a retirement home for them.

Sanctuary staff monitor the health and behaviour of the rescued animals and provide veterinary treatment where needed and food to supplement the natural diet the bears find in the forested sanctuary enclosures.

The first bear sanctuaries were created in Greece and Turkey in the early 1990s. They enabled the Greek and Turkish authorities to eradicate the cruel and illegal dancing bear trade in their countries by providing a protected forest home for all the rescued bears.

Bear sanctuaries have since been built in countries such as Thailand, Pakistan, India, Germany and even China, to care for bears rescued from cruel captive conditions such as bear-baiting, dancing bears and from the cruelty of bear farming. The latest bear sanctuary to be built is the Libearty Bear Sanctuary in central Romania.

Bear Sanctuaries Around the World

There are a number of bear sanctuaries helping to rescue and care for bears around the world. Some are included below. More links will be added to this page as information is gathered:

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC)
Name:  Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Area
Location:  Sabah, Borneo Island, Malaysia
Contact person:  Siew Te Wong   (CEO and Founder of the BSBCC)


The Malayan sun bear (Helarctos malayanus), the world’s smallest bear, is found only in southeast Asia. According to the IUCN, the total sun bear population has declined by at least 30% in the last 30 years (IUCN 2007). While healthy populations still exist in Borneo, this small arboreal bear continues to face significant threats, including forest degradation and destruction, poaching for bear parts (including gall bladders), and illegal killing to prevent crop damage and to capture small cubs for pets. Due to these threats, there are many young orphaned and illegally held sun bears living in small cages and substandard conditions in Borneo with no hope of returning to the wild. This project will establish a new facility, the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC), to help rescue, house, rehabilitate and release captive sun bears as well as raise awareness both locally and internationally about this little-known species. The BSBCC will promote sun bear conservation by creating capacity to confiscate, rehabilitate and release suitable orphaned and ex-captive bears back into the wild; providing an improved long-term living environment for captive bears that cannot be released; educating the public and raising awareness about this species; and achieving increased protection for sun bears and their habitat through ongoing research and increased knowledge and awareness.

In 2010, BSBCC completed construction of a new bear house with natural forest enclosures in existing primary and secondary forest at Sepilok Forest Reserve in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Construction of viewing platforms and visitor areas and trails for the facility commenced in September 2011. The Centre will be opened to the public once visitor areas are complete, and will offer educational exhibits and programs, in addition to limited viewing of the bears in one of the forest enclosures. Work is also beginning on the second stage of the project, which will include conducting population surveys and setting up a forest release site in a protected area to allow for the soft release of rehabilitated bears.

For further information on theBornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre:




Name:  Moon Bear Rescue Centre
Location:  Chengdu, China, and Tam Dao, Vietnam
Organisation: Animals Asia Foundation


Animals Asia’s Moon Bear Rescue Centers in Chengdu, China, and Tam Dao, Vietnam have saved hundreds of bears from the cruelty of the bile industry. The bears are rehabilitated and live out their lives in semi-natural enclosures and dens – but the sanctuaries are far more than a refuge for rescued bears. Our research during the past 18 years has amassed groundbreaking evidence of how bear farming is killing the bears, and doctors in Vietnam have reported a number of cases of bear bile poisoning in those that consume it, including some that have resulted in the death of the patient. Thousands of people – officials, doctors, celebrities, supporters, schoolchildren and journalists – visit the centers each year and they leave in no doubt as to why bear farming must end.

Our China rescue centre covers 13.33 hectares at Longqiao village on the outskirts of Chengdu, Sichuan province. The sanctuary is home to over 160 bears in 14 separate bear houses with metal and concrete dens and grassy outdoor enclosures featuring an array of recreational furniture and twice daily enrichment to keep the bears busy and happy throughout their days.

Our Vietnam Rescue Centre is positioned on 12 hectares of land just outside the buffer zone of beautiful Tam Dao National Park and is big enough to house 200 rescued bears in bear houses with outside enclosures. There are over 90 bears on site.

Today, over 15,000 endangered moon bears are held on bile farms throughout Asia and milked for their bile because it is believed to be effective in the practice of traditional Asian medicine despite the availability of inexpensive and effective herbal and synthetic alternatives.



Organization: Alertis – fund for bear and nature conservation
Name: The Bear Forest
Location: Rhenen
Contact person: Koen Cuyten (project coordinator)


Bears all over the world are threatened due to loss of habitat, habitat fragmentation, illegal hunting and abuse by men. In many places bears are mistreated for entertainment as dancing bears, in circuses, theatre and the film industry. Alertis mission is to protect nature, the bear and its habitat in particular, as well as other species sharing this habitat. On top of this Alertis focuses on the welfare of captive bears.

Alertiswas established in 1993. The first and most well known project is a semi-natural forested area called the Bear Forest in Ouwehand Zoo Rhenen, the Netherlands. In this Large Bear Enclosure formerly mistreated bears, such as dancing bears and circus bears, live on 2 ha area together with a pack of European wolves. In contrast with their former life, they can ‘enjoy their true bear-being’. More than 800.000 people visit the Bear Forest each year to learn about the bears which are the ambassadors for their poorly kept cousins in many places around the globe.

Alertisis mainly involved in conservation of the large bear species. The Not for Profit organization supports research projects, nature conservation, education and awareness projects. These are carried out in several European countries like Albania, Armenia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Romania and Slovakia. But also outside Europe where bears are at risk such as India, Laos, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, Iran and the Russian Far East.

 For further information on Alertis, please visit:




NameBalkasar Bear sanctuary
Location:  Balkasar, Chakwal, Pakistan
Organisation: Bioresource Research Centre (Pakistan)


Bear baiting is a cruel practice introduced in south Asia by British colonials in the 18th century, where a toothless and tethered bear defends the attack of specially trained fighting dogs for at least three minutes several times a day. This practice gradually became a part of local rituals and such fights were organized as regional events involving the general public, the influential landlords, and the gypsies (who own the bears). The problem was very deep rooted and hence very difficult to be totally eliminated. The Bioresource Research Centre (BRC) made efforts to curb this cruelty and identified the number of bears in captivity and the number of bears involved in baiting throughout the country. The total number of baiting events was identified and a significant proportion have now been stopped through campaigning by the BRC and through support from the relevant Pakistan authorities. A bear sanctuary was established in northern Pakistan to care for the rescued bears, which are mostly Asiatic black bears but some Himalayan brown bears are also used by gypsy communities. There have also been instances of sloth bears, which are native to India, being smuggled into Pakistan to be used as dancing bears.

Bears have been rescued through legal confiscations and through alternative livelihood programmes - where the gypsies who earn their living by using captive bears for dancing and baiting are provided with alternative livelihoods in return for giving their bears to the sanctuary. Bear cubs have also been rescued from poachers. Bearbaiting events have been forcefully prevented from taking place, but the BRC also works by addressing spectators religiously through mosques to explain the religious laws against bearbaiting; by providing alternative and more attractive public shows without the exploitation of animals; by convincing gypsies to give up their bears for alternative livelihoods; by working with a network of influential Landlords who now agree on banning the bearbaiting events; by motivating general public through media to help stop the baiting events, and by education and awareness lessons in schools.

The natural wild habitats of bears have also been identified and the BRC are working with the Pakistan authorities to prevent poaching of bear cubs from the wild.

The rescued bears are maintained in artificially designed wild conditions in Pakistan’s Bear Sanctuary at Balkasar in northern Punjab, where the health of the bears is ensured through constant monitoring of their health, diets, activities and behaviors of the individual bears.



Name: Idaho Black Bear Rehabilitation (IBBR)
Location: Idaho, USA
Contact person: Sally Maughan


IBBR Mission Statement

Our mission is to give all orphaned cubs a second chance at life in the wild by:

- Rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing orphaned bear cubs whenever possible.

- Instituting bear rehabilitation programs and training rehabilitators in states where the option currently does not exist.

- Working with state wildlife agencies to establish bear rehab as a standard part of their wildlife management policies.

- Educating the public about bear rehab and our shared responsibility to protect wild bears and their habitat.

- Continue learning and sharing rehab methods to successfully release orphaned cubs.

Over the past 23 years the Idaho Black Bear Rehab, Inc. has given injured and orphaned American black bear cubs a Second Chance at Freedom. Since 1989, nearly 200 cubs in our rehabilitation program have been released back into the wild. We believe that each bear is unique, and that the stories behind their orphan or injured status impact each bear and the people who have joined in their life story in ways that matter to them all.

Cubs come to IBBR for a variety of reasons. Some are orphaned during spring & fall bear hunting or because their mother is killed due to perceived nuisance behavior. Some are found injured or separated from their mother for reasons unknown. Some cubs are orphaned when their mothers are killed in motor vehicle accidents. Some bears have overcome such horrific challenges that their stories can’t help but offer inspiration to everyone.

IBBR has found that each cub’s individual personality is as distinct as the variety of personalities we find among humans. Rehabilitation of bears can never take a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Besides providing for a variety of physical needs, such as those facing newborns, malnourished, injured, or cubs fighting disease, support for emotional trauma, or inquisitive and active minds, care must be customized for each and every cub. IBBR is well known for adapting rehabilitation techniques and facilities to fit the needs of individual bears, and we are committed to continuing to embrace and promote the necessity of recognizing the value and importance of individual bears.

We show our commitment to the individual by the way we tailor a cub's rehab experience by using methods and practices that are best for that cub. We show that by embracing, enjoying, and sharing each cub's distinct personalities, as noted in the names that are chosen for them while they're in rehab. They aren’t just a number. We show that by caring whether they live or die, and work hard to ensure that they're released in an area, and at a time, that will promote their best chance of survival as a wild bear.

We are making these efforts to build compassion, protection, and ownership for the welfare of bears by developing successful methods and practices for bear rehab which we share with wildlife agencies, organizations working to save threatened bear species, and with individuals who care about bears and their environment.



Name: Bears Education Awareness Research Sanctuary (B.E.A.R.S.)
Location:  Alaska Wildlife Conservation Centre. Portage, Alaska, USA
Contact person: Jordan Schaul, PhD (Curator and Conservation Biologist)

The B.E.A.R.S exhibit is currently home to the largest bear enclosure in the United States and second largest in North America. Although a new expansion to the 18 acre coastal brown bear and grizzly bear enclosure will make the enclosure the largest in North America, bigger is not necessarilybetter, in the eyes of the BEARS management team. They hope to augment the natural habitat with built-in enrichment as part of an exhibit enhancement program. Currently, the exhibit is home to one orphaned grizzly sow, and two sibling coastal brown bears - a brother and sister. All were orphaned and raised at the Center. As part of the first phase of the B.E.A.R.S enhancement program, the Center’s two orphaned black bears--currently maintained in a four acre enclosure-- will be moved to a brand new 14 acre enclosure across from the brown bear exhibit. The second and third phase of the exhibit will include completion of an 11,000 square foot education, conservation and research facility that will sit between the two exhibits. The entire project is intended to simulate bear-viewing as it is offered not far away, down on the Kenai Peninsula, the bear viewing capital of the world. Not everyone who is fortunate enough to visit Alaska to see bears can afford to go bear viewing, but the Center's BEARS exhibit offers people a chance to see bears in a natural setting while providing some orphans a second chance at life. In fact, the first phase is under construction-- the placement of a $600,000 viewing boardwalk which will essentially immerse the visitors into the world of the Alaskan brown bear. On the education front, the BEARS team under the auspices of Steve Mendive ( and in conjunction with Bear Trust International, University of Alaska, Anchorage, the Anchorage School District and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game offers a bear science curriculum to regional high school science teachers for continuing education credit. This curriculum, based on real research and real data sets generated by bear biologists meet US STEM requirement standards for teaching science and math.

Additional Links:

Join BEARS on Facebook

Join the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center on Facebook

About the BEAR Science Curriculum in National Geographic News"



Name:  ARCTUROS Bear Sanctuary
Location:  Nymfeo, Florina, northern Greece.
Contact person:  Lazaros Georgiadis. Managing Director – ARCTUROS


In the night of January 13 1993 a car containing a brown bear was driven for 500 km before stopping at an old but renovated pigsty in Fanos, Florina in northern Greece. That was the day of the first ever confiscation of a dancing bear in Greece.  Mary, as the bear was called, was transferred to that pigsty, which had been transformed into the first Veterinary Station of ARCTUROS - a new NGO which had been founded just a few months earlier in September 1992. After Mary, other bears such as Dimitris, Andreas and Koukla were also confiscated and they were all later moved to the newly created Bear Sanctuary, a five hectare enclosure built in beech forest of Nymfeo in Florina which is a natural habitat of wild bears in that Region of West Macedonia.  

The cruel use of dancing bears in Greece had come to an end with the creation of the Greek bear sanctuary.  ARCTUROS worked with the Greek authorities to quickly confiscate all dancing bears found in the country and to provide the necessary veterinary treatment and long term care to allow these once-exploited bears to live a more natural life in the bear sanctuary forest enclosure.

This is how the protection of brown bears started in Greece. The facilities of the ARCTUROS Veterinary Station and Bear Sanctuary comprised the initial Bear Protection Centre. The Veterinary Station was the first facility that was used specifically for the protection of brown bears in Greece, while the seizure of dancing bears was the first ever formal action for the protection of bears in Europe.

Since then, the facilities have been enhanced (especially in the framework of LIFE projects of EU) and new ones were built and the activities for the protection of brown bear were broadened to include activities and facilities specialized for the wolf as well. These include a new Veterinary Station and Administrative Centre in Aetos, the Wolf Sanctuary, the Wolf Information Centre and the Greek Shepherd Dog Breeding Centre in Agrapidia.  Together with the Bear Sanctuary and the Bear Information Centre in Nymfeo, these facilities now form the ARCTUROS Environmental Centre. 

The ARCTUROS Bear Sanctuary today hosts 13 bears while the Wolf Sanctuary is hosting 10 wolves. All these animals were confiscated from illegal captivity.

In 2012, while ARCTUROS is celebrating their 20th anniversary, the Environmental Centre has been the focal point for a series of activities that have turned its facilities into an important tool for the protection of wildlife in multiple levels, such as: 

  1. Wildlife species treatment, appropriate accommodation and protection of wild animals that used to be held in captivity including orphan bears cubs. On January 21 2012, twenty years after the first dancing bear confiscation, the first ever pilot program for the treatment and rehabilitation of two orphaned bear cubs was completed with their re-introduction to the wild in Greece.
  2. Raising public awareness and carrying out environmental education projects. Well over 50.000 visitors and 10.000 pupils are visiting our facilities every year where we inform them about ecology, biology and the need to protect brown bears and wolves. Over these 20 years more than 600,000 visitors and pupils have visited our Environmental Centre’s facilities.
  3. Promotion of research and application in specific cases of wildlife treatment and protection of the environment.  Thanks to the facilities’ geographical position, ARCTUROS has access and can research brown bear’s and wolves’ natural habitats in Greece and the neighbouring countries.
  4. Using the Environmental Centre as the operational centre for our Wildlife Emergency Team that addresses emergency issues regarding wildlife and humans.
  5. Contributing to the development of the local community with the establishment of a steady cooperation with local authorities.  Assisting in the growth of ecotourism and other forms of alternative tourism.
  6. The establishment and promotion of volunteering at a national and international level. Every year around 300 volunteers from Greece and 4-8 from the European Union work for ARCTUROS and take part in activities such as research, renovation of our facilities, informing visitors and raising public awareness.
  7. Developing international cooperation through regular communication with other similar environmental organizations in the Balkans, in Europe and the rest of the world, through participation in international networks such as BALKAN NET, ENDCAP (European Network for Ending of Wildlife in Captivity), EARS (European Alliance of Rescue Centres and Sanctuaries), GFAS (Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries), IBA (International Bear Association) and IENE (Infra Eco Network in Europe).