Michal - from Braniewo to Bärenwald Müritz


Michal is 8 years old and  the youngest captive bear in Poland. As a cub he had lost his left front limb. Through a crack in indoor cage bars he had put his paw outside the cage and so neigbouring Asiatic black bears in the adjacent cage could have reached him and bitten off his front paw up to elbow. There was no chance to save it.

Our cooperation with Vier Pfoten has started almost 2 years ago. The result of our efforts and this cooperation is already the third bear from Poland in a German sanctuary for bears “Bärenwald Müritz”.

On Thursday morning, 29 September 2011, a dozen of people from Germany, who came to the zoo-botanical garden in Braniewo aiming to transfer Michal, gathered for breakfast at the hotel Rheticus in Frombork. Then it was decided that before Michal, veterinarians will examine seriously ill tiger. At 11 a.m. a convoy of cars arrived to zoo in Braniewo. Dr. Göritz from the Leibniz-Institut für Zoo-und-Wildtierforschung in Berlin, one of the best specialists in wildlife medicine in Europe, decided on detailed examination including blood tests and x-rays. But even observation of the tiger’s behavior itself lead to the conclusion that the animal extremely suffers and an euthanasia seems to be the solution. However, the decision belongs to the owner of the animal.


The first steps toward Michal’s transfer started in the late afternoon. The whole action was being recorded by several tv teams from Germany and Poland. The procedure was the same as in the case of Leszno bears. After pharmacological immobilization, the bear was examined, then placed in a special car with mobile X-ray. After all examinations, Michal was moved to the transport cage and awaken by antidote. However, sedatives mixed with immobilization drugs have been working for a few hours and so reducing transport stress.

Moving the bear from the cage to the car with X-ray, and then to the transport cage, and even examination is a hard work. We must note that Michal weighs nearly 250 kg and 8 people are needed to carry him. The team is tired, coffee and tee was served, and Zbigniew Dalak, Director of the Municipal Building Administration, which is responsible for zoo, founded the food for the team.

About 8 p.m. a long journey had started. After over 11 hours, the transport reached the Mecklenburg Lake District and Bärenwald Müritz. From Szczecin it is just over 160 km, but nearly 600 km from Braniewo. In the sanctuary an enclosure with an area of ​​5,000 square meters (0.5 hectare) is waiting for Michal. It's more than 83 times larger area than he had in Braniewo. The vast majority of the area is covered by meadow, and there is also a forested and bushy part. An important part of the enclosure is a swimming facility – a pond.
Two bears from Leszno which arrived here in June are placed in a neighbouring enclosure, separated only by a path for visitors.


On Friday, about 9 a.m. the transport cage is placed in the enclosure. About 9.30 the cage was opened. Michal came out of the cage, looked around. After a while he started to eat some apples. Many hours before the transport he could not eat because of the anesthesia. Michal was not moving away from the cage. In Braniewo his enclosure was below the ground level – the concrete pit. Even while standing on two legs, he did not see anything beyond the treetops. In Bärenwald Michal have seen plenty of space around him for the very first time. For two next days Michal is keeping himself still close to the cage, however his explorations becoming longer and longer. But he sleeps and rests in the closiness of the cage. Except fruits and vegetables Michal eats a lot of grass, dandelion and other plants. With evident pleasure he does enjoy wallowing on a grass.


At the beginning Michal was a bit timid, an escape was his first reaction on people close to the fence of his enclosure, but afterwards he was also curious of this new situation, people, dogs. He was frightened even by a small vehicle, which is being used for distribution of food in Bärenwald. On the third day Michał had started to explore a part of the enclosure away from the transport cage. He had discovered a pond and since then he uses it several times per day. Three days after arrival, Michal was already using the whole enclosure. He had also discovered a pleasure of digging. This basic bear activity was not possible in Braniewo, however digging in the ground is one of the biological needs of bears.

Michal is exploring his new world. Transportation and first days of acclimatization went very peaceful. But in Braniewo four bears remains. We hope that our cooperation with Vier Pfoten will allow also them to wait for a better life, especially as the municipality in Braniewo demonstrates willingness to solve this problem.


We want to thank all people and institutions that helped in this project, and to all supporting our work. Special thanks to Vier Pfoten, an organization that not only has taken the next bear from Poland to the sanctuary, but also allowed us to monitor the behaviour of bears in Bärenwald Müritz.


On 1st August 2012 a direct meeting Michal and Kasia & Basia August took place in the sanctuary for bears Bärenwald Müritz in Germany. To remind: Basia & Kasia are the two female bears that were moved from Leszno (W Poland) in June 2011 ( ). Both had been kept in Poland in very poor conditions and moved to Bärenwald Müritz thanks to our cooperation with the Vier Pfoten Foundation.
Michal is kept in a separate enclosure of ​​nearly 5 000 m2, and two females in a neighboring enclosure twice as big. Both enclosures are separated by the path for visitors. A large concrete pip is connecting them, being closed by lattice in both sides. This day the culvert was opened. Sabine Steinmeier, head of keepers in the sanctuary, said the meeting went peacefully. At first Kasia had been sitting for a long time before the entrance to the channel while Michal was sitting inside. None of bears wanted to take the first step. When Michal went through the passage Kasia performed fake attacks several times, but there was no serious confrontation. Michal was mainly sniffing everything in the range of his nose. Later came back to his enclosure, played a bit with his ball, took a bath and 2 hours long nap. Obviously he was tired after this adventure. So many new smells! Kasia was sitting long time next to the entrance at this time but at the end she also went to sleepDetails (in German):




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