The use of animals in the circus has sparked a widespread topic of conversation. Many countries are taking the initiative to ban the use of wild animals in the ring. While this is a step in the right direction, it leaves the fate of current animal residents unclear.

This was the case for one bear who was living at a circus, held in a small concrete enclosure their whole life. When one rescue group heard about this story, they wanted to set this animal free. What they didn’t know was that they were about to start a serious battle…

A bear named Napa spent his whole life only knowing cages and concrete. Although he was originally born in a zoo, fate had other plans in store for the poor bear…

Napa was sold to a Serbian circus, called Corona, at a very young age where he was forced to perform tricks in front of a very large and loud crowd.

It’s unclear exactly what life at the circus was like because in 2009 Serbia banned the use of wild animals in their shows. Since the circus no longer needed him, he was forced to spend his days in a small cage.

FOUR PAWS, an international animal welfare charity that focuses on sustainable solutions for wild animals in need, heard about Napa’s conditions and just had to take action.

Volunteers knew they needed legal help in order to relieve Napa from his inhumane life. They sought aid from local officials, but they also knew that the odds of rescuing him were slim indeed.

Finally, in October 2016, FOUR PAWS and local officials were able to confiscate Napa from the Corona Circus grounds. But due to lack of long-term facilities, Napa had to be placed in temporary holding at the Palic Zoo in Serbia.

It wasn’t until early July 2018, nearly two years later, that FOUR PAWS was able to provide Napa with a permanent home. A home that could provide him with the best and most natural life possible.

Rescuers worked tirelessly with the Arosa Bear Foundation, the founder of a brand new bear sanctuary located in Switzerland, to complete the mission. Napa was going to become its very first resident, but the journey to bring him home wasn’t going to be easy…

Veterinarians sedated him and then transported Napa to the bear ambulance where he would travel for 28 hours and nearly 870 miles by van and cable-car.

Traveling to his forever home, Napa was provided with an air-conditioned ambulance and had scheduled veterinarian checks along the way.

He was in the last leg of the trip when rescue crews ran into a slight problem. They needed to figure out how to transport Napa’s 1,200-pound crate from the ambulance to the cable car.

Napa had come so far and the crew was not going to give up. Bear expert, Carsten Hertwig, at FOUR PAWS said, “Transporting [him] from the bear ambulance to the gondola was a logistical masterpiece. I am very happy that everything went so well.”

Napa’s rigorous trip was complete when he had finally arrived at the Arosa Bear Sanctuary in Switzerland on July 4, 2018. He was placed in an adaptation enclosure so that he could see his new home without being overwhelmed.

He was provided with lots of love and treats consisting of fruits, vegetables, and meat. He was also showered down with a hose, a first for this bear who had been neglected for so long.

As Napa looked around, he was curious and finally at peace in his new home surrounded by the breathtaking Arosa Mountains. In no time, Napa was comfortable and ready to be released from his adaptation enclosure.

Napa stepped out to explore his new home which provided over an acre of land just for him. The sanctuary was filled with slopes, trees, and ponds for his enjoyment.

Something that Napa now loves to do is go swimming in his own personal pond. He can be seen entering the pond and then joyfully splashing around below.

The Arosa Bear Sanctuary officially opened in early August of 2018. It is a three-hectare site containing species-appropriate enclosures and room for up to five bears.

Napa and the other bears have given the Arosa Bear Foundation hope. Their sanctuary offers visitors and tourists a place to become educated on animal welfare and nature conservation topics.

Although Napa’s life did not start out under the best conditions, he has helped shed light on the necessity of species-appropriate sanctuaries for animals like him. He was a success and now, he’s finally free of his cage and home for good!

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