Himalayan Brown Bear (Ursus arctos isabellinus) in Perm Zoo, Russian Federation (Dan Stolyarov)


Bears belong in the wild and certainly not in private animal collections or substandard zoo accommodation.  Unfortunately, there are still significant numbers of them on display in various parts of the world where their living conditions range from poor to awful with bears held in small, barren enclosures with little or no enrichment and in climates which are totally inappropriate.

Bear Conservation advocates for urgent steps to be taken to remove bears from facilities which are clearly unsuitable at best and harmful at worst.

In order to fulfill their undoubtedly valuable educational role and to improve animal welfare, zoos, parks and rescue centres need to stimulate their captive bears to behave as closely as possible to their wild counterparts.  Evidence indicates that this can only be achieved through the provision of interesting and varied habitats combined with well planned enrichment programmes.

Our policy

  • We believe that, as a matter of urgency, the “bear-parks” of Japan, where up to 50 animals are kept in a single concrete pit, should be closed down. Local and national governments should outlaw private caged collections.  In addition we:
  • Strongly oppose the taking of bears from the wild to populate zoos, animal parks and collections
  • Call for the transfer of bears kept in substandard conditions to other certified facilities (including appropriate zoos) that can satisfy the space and enrichment criteria required
  • To this end, work with zoos to compose a database of captive bears and to formulate a plan to move captive bears from the worst to the best facilities
  • Oppose the enforced socialising of captive bears
  • Oppose the unregulated captive breeding of bears
  • Encourage zoos to work on and/or fund field research into endangered bear species and their habitats


Our vision is of a world where all bears are given the necessary protection and space to live out their natural lives in the wild, but we understand that sometimes circumstances may prevent this.

We accept that sometimes bears may have to be relocated from the wild to a place of captivity, and that sometimes bears will be rescued from a captive environment and cannot then be released into the wild.  But where and in what conditions are captive bears held, what is their state of health and state of mind?  What do they eat and do they hibernate?

The ultimate aim of our Captive Bears Project is to compile and maintain an accurate list of all bears held in captivity and to document their history, welfare, health and living conditions.  This is a huge task and, as such, has been broken down into a number of smaller tasks.  The first of these is to research and obtain detailed information on all captive bears in the United Kingdom.  You can find the full list of captive bears in the UK here.

Can you help us?

We are looking for volunteers to help us research and compile the above data.  If you could help please get in touch and we’ll send you more information.  We’re particularly keen to hear from potential volunteers outside the UK so that we can widen our data search area (but we still need more volunteers in the UK).

You can also help us by letting us know if you see any captive bears – if you can take a photograph and obtain any information about the bear or bears that would be even more helpful.  Please contact us and let us know what you’ve found out; even just the name of a zoo, sanctuary, circus or show will be a great help.

More on captive bears

To learn more about bear baiting, dancing bears, bear farms, circuses and shows, animal collections and bear sanctuaries please take a look at our special section on Captive Bears.


Born Free Foundation

See also our page on Bear Sanctuaries

Polar bears in zoos

Bear Watch UK our comprehensive list, by species, of all known captive bears in the United Kingdom and their locations.

New future for endangered Japanese bears: four captive brown bears have a new home the Yorkshire Wildlife Park.

We will be adding further information on specific cases and campaigns in due course.

Page updated 28 September 2018









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