A Circus Bear’s Fate Was Up In The Air Until A Rescue Group Stepped In To Help

Originally born in a zoo with a wide-open enclosure, Napa the bear soon found himself in the custody of a Serbian circus, Corona, living in a small cage. Thankfully, Serbia passed a law banning wild animals in the circus, but the fate of Napa was up in the air.

That’s when a rescue group stepped in. Sadly, it wasn’t that easy, and the group wasn’t ready for what came next.

Napa Was Moved From Her Home In A Zoo

Meet Napa, a bear who has known nothing but confinement his entire life. The thing is, Napa was originally born in a zoo, with a nice wide-open space to roam around.

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four_paws_international/Instagram
four_paws_international/Instagram

Sadly, his life took a turn, and he soon found himself in a small cage with nowhere to go.

New Home At The Circus

When Napa was young, he was sold to a Serbian circus called Corona. Long gone was his wide-open enclosure. His new home was a small cage, unlike other bears his age who were most likely exploring the wilderness.

Ukrainian National Circus presents new show
STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images
STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Now, he was to perform in front of large and very loud crowds.

Serbia Banned Wild Animals In Circuses

No one really knows what life at the circus was like, especially for a bear like Napa. Then, in 2009, Serbia banned circuses from utilizing wild animals in any of their acts.

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four_paws_international/Instagram
four_paws_international/Instagram

The thing is, the circus didn’t sell Napa to another zoo. They left him in his small cage.

Someone Was About To Step In

Napa must have thought his life was going to be confined to four walls of a cage. Little did he know that a charity organization heard about his condition and where determined to help the poor creature.

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four_paws_international/Instagram
four_paws_international/Instagram

They were ready to take action and get Napa the help he needed and deserved.

FOUR PAWS

The foundation that stepped in was FOUR PAWS, an international animal welfare charity that focuses on “sustainable solutions for wild animals in need,” animals such as Napa.

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four_paws_international/Instagram
four_paws_international/Instagram

Of course, it wasn’t going to be as easy as walking into the circus and taking Napa out. They were going to need help.

They Looked Into Legal Representation

The volunteers at FOUR PAWS looked into legal representation and even went to local officials, all of whom they thought could help them get Napa out of the inhumane conditions he found himself in at the circus.

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four_paws_international/Instagram
four_paws_international/Instagram

It was going to be a long road, though, and they didn’t know if anything they did was going to work against the circus.

2016: FOUR PAWS Got Napa Off The Circus Grounds

It took years but, finally, in October of 2016, FOUR PAWS and local officials managed to get Napa out of his cage on the Corona Circus grounds. There was more work that had to be done, though.

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four_paws_international/Instagram
four_paws_international/Instagram

There was no long-term facility with a vacancy for Napa. So he went to a temporary location at the Palic Zoo in Serbia.

Two Years Later, A Permanent Facility

The zoo was Napa’s home for two years. It wasn’t until 2018 that FOUR PAWS managed to find a permanent facility for the bear, somewhere that would provide him with a natural habitat to roam.

Brown bears in facility of animal protection organization Arcturos
Takis Tsafos/picture alliance via Getty Images
Takis Tsafos/picture alliance via Getty Images

Unfortunately, getting him there was easier said than done. Once again, FOUR PAWS had their work cut out for them.

Arosa Bear Foundation In Switzerland

The location was all the way in Switzerland, at the Arosa Bear Foundation. The foundation is a massive bear sanctuary, focusing on rehabilitating and releasing the bears into the “wild.”

Baby brown bears in Turkey's Bursa
Sergen Sezgin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Sergen Sezgin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Of course, while a huge area, the “wild” is still enclosed, as the bears are unfit to travel back into actual nature.

Napa Was The Sanctuary’s First Resident!

The Arosa Bear Foundation was a work in progress from 2010 up until 2018. Napa was going to be its first resident! Bringing him from Serbia to Switzerland wasn’t going to be easy, though.

Arosa Bear Foundatio
Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

It was going to take some heavy medication to calm the scared little bear during the car ride.

The Trip: 28 Hours And 870 Miles

There was no way to get Napa on an airplane. So, after a veterinarian sedated him, Napa was transported in a van and then a cable car to the bear sanctuary.

Prime Minister visits Worbis Bear Park
Martin Schutt/picture alliance via Getty Images
Martin Schutt/picture alliance via Getty Images

In total, the trip took 28 hours and nearly 870 miles! That was a long way for a bear who has known nothing but captivity.

Still A Few Issues

During the trip, Napa got to experience air conditioning for the first time! He even had regularly scheduled vet appointments throughout the 28-hour journey.

Arosa Bear Foundation
Volodymyr Tarasov/ Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images
Volodymyr Tarasov/ Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images

But FOUR PAWS wasn’t out of the woods just yet. There were still a few issues that needed to be solved before Napa could settle into his new home.

How To Lift A 1,200-Pound Crate

The biggest issue was how to move Napa’s massive 1,200-pound crate from the bear ambulance van to the cable car which would bring him into the sanctuary.

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four_paws_international/Instagram
four_paws_international/Instagram

While it was a puzzle, the people at FOUR PAWS figured it out, and Napa was on his way! According to Carsten Hertwig of FOUR PAWS, “Transporting [him] from the bear ambulance to the gondola was a logistical masterpiece. I am very happy that everything went so well.”

July 2018: Napa Was Home

It was July 4, 2018, when Napa finally arrived at Arosa Bear Sanctuary. But the foundation wasn’t able to release him into the enclosure just yet.

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four_paws_international/Instagram
four_paws_international/Instagram

First, they placed Napa in an adaptation enclosure, something that would help him get used to his new surroundings and not become super overwhelmed.

Napa Was Being Spoiled (Rightfully So!)

While in his adaptation enclosure, Napa was treated better than he’s been his entire life. He was showered with love and all the treats he could ever want, including meat, fruits, and vegetables.

Baby brown bears in Turkey's Bursa
Sergen Sezgin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Sergen Sezgin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Napa was also bathed for the first time in his life! It was a dream for the bear.

It Was Time For His Release

After some time, Napa was finally ready to be released into the main enclosure. Curious about everything, Napa looked around prior to his release, looking at the sprawling land and the Arosa Mountains in the distance.

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four_paws_international/Instagram
four_paws_international/Instagram

He was about to explore a brand new world just waiting for him beyond his adaption enclosure.

Napa Found A Love Of Swimming

Napa’s new home provided him with over an acre of land, sprawling hills, ponds for swimming, and a whole lot of trees. It was unlike anything Napa had lived in before.

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SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images
SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images

The little bear finally had somewhere actually to be a bear and stretch his legs and explore. As it turned out, Napa was a huge fan of the ponds, finding a new love of swimming!

The Sanctuary Officially Opened In August 2018

While Napa was already there, the Arosa Bear Sanctuary didn’t officially open its doors until August of 2018, a month after Napa arrived. Now, they were ready to rescue more bears and give them a second chance at life.

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four_paws_international/Instagram
four_paws_international/Instagram

The site contains three species-appropriate enclosures that can hold up to five bears!

Their Doors Opened To More Bears

The sanctuary has opened its doors to many bears throughout the years. It is even open to the public, offering tours and educating people on the bears and their stories.

Foundations
Volodymyr Tarasov/ Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images
Volodymyr Tarasov/ Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Napa couldn’t be more thrilled about his new life in the sanctuary; getting out of the circus was the best thing that ever happened to him.

Napa Was Thriving

While Napa never made it to the actual wild, he thrived at the sanctuary. He made a quick transition from a scared bear, unsure of himself and others, to a playful bear who loved to roam the enclosure and go swimming.

Alaska Brown Bears
Jessica Matthews /For The Washington Post via Getty Images
Jessica Matthews /For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Arosa Bear Sanctuary is doing marvelous work and continues to welcome bears into their facility.