Management Plan for the Brown Bear in Poland

On 29th of November 2011 at the Warsaw University of Life Sciences, the project of the Management Plan for the Brown Bear Ursus arctos in Poland was presented. The project is now in the process of consultations and awaiting for the decision of the General Directorate for Environmental Protection concerning the implementation of the plan changed after consultations or in this form. We took part in preparation of the Plan (AS - co-author , RM - cooperation in the chapter: Improvement of the welfare of bears in captivity).

The whole document available here

Below the 
section on bears in captivity:

7.5. Improvements of the welfare of bears in captivity

There are 29 brown bears being kept in captivity in Poland (6 males and 23 females) in 9 institutions (by September 2011). Of these, 17 are living in conditions constraining basic biological needs. The study on captive bears in Poland * showed the following major welfare problems: (1) insufficient space of enclosures, (2) inappropriate, concrete substrate causing diseases and leading to limb deformations, (3) poor diet, (4) lack of swimming pools and access to drinking water, (5) lack of stimulation causing mental suffering, and (6) inadequate care, including veterinary care. The enclosures do not exceed 600 m2, only three are of app. 1000 m2, and only one is of 1.2 ha. Eleven bears are kept in enclosures that are unacceptable small; eight individuals live in cages smaller than 200 m2 and three in enclosures smaller than the legally required minimum (100 m2 per pair of bears). Currently, ten brown bears are kept on concrete floor. Sixteen bears have no access to pools of proper size enabling free swimming; some of them have the possibility to cool body only in concrete pits, cribs or bathtubs. In some places, there is no control over the feeding by visitors; this practice should be prohibited, both because of its adverse effects on health, as well as changes in behavior. For detailed information and full references, see Annex 1.

Appropriate keeping conditions are important not only for bear welfare, but also for proper education about the biological needs of the species. One solution to the problem of many bears being kept in unsuitable conditions and lack of proper places is the building of a bear sanctuary. Bear sanctuaries, where bears are housed in semi-natural enclosures, has been very successful in many European countries. Such facilities are not only maintaining high standards of animal welfare, but also serve for important educational and scientific purposes. In some sanctuaries, the minimum standard size per one individual is set at 0.5 ha. These standards are in agreement with the concept of Large Bear Enclosures (LBE). Keeping bears in such conditions that allow exhibiting natural behaviours is the backbone of the concept. In addition to the significant increase of the living space for bears, environmental enrichment is being increasingly used. All new facilities for bears should keep along these current trends followed in most European countries.

Recommended actions

·    The national regulations on the minimal requirements for bear keeping should be improved and changed in the law. Existing regulations do not only ignore the basic needs of the species but are also unclear as they do not specify a minimal enclosure size for one individual, but only per pair of animals. It is proposed to increase the established minimum size of enclosures from 100 m2 per pair to 1000 m2 (see chapter 8).

·    Support initiatives for building bear sanctuaries and large enclosures, which could contribute to solve the problem of bears living in unsuitable conditions.

·    Promote and support improvements of existing enclosures with environmental enrichment stimulating physical and mental activity.

·    Promote the building of new facilities according to the LBE standards.

* Maslak R. & Sergiel A. Captive Bears Welfare Research in Poland 2007-2009. RSPCA & OTOZ Animals, Wrocław.


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