New Rescue

In May 2017 two young brown bears were rescued from a small cage at a roadside hotel & restaurant in Albania. The rescue centre (the same one that helped us to rescue our current bears and lions) contacted Five Sisters Zoo to ask for their help once again. One year later, Henk and Eso arrived!

Follow Henk and Eso’s Story…


The two young bears, Henk and Eso, are siblings and approximately 3 years old. They were probably the victims of illegal poaching, and are thought to have been taken from the wild as cubs after their mother was shot. They were sold to the tourist trade, and ended up living in a small cramped cage at a roadside hotel & restaurant in Albania. You can see in the pictures to the left just how small that cage was!

They were being used to lure tourists into the restaurant. They were fed very little – only scraps from the restaurants kitchen and bits and pieces from passing tourists. Their food was not enough, and not suitable to their natural diets. Their only water came from rain puddles that collected in their cage. Both bears were malnourished and extremely thin, weighing approximately 70kg.

The Rescue

Thankfully on the 16th May 2017, the bears were rescued from their miserable existence and are now being cared for by the rescue centre Natuurhulpcentrum in Belgium (where our other 3 rescue bears; Carmen, Peggy and Suzy, and the 4 ex-circus lions came from).  The bears are now being well looked after, fed the correct seasonal diet, their fur is in much better condition and they have more room to move around.

However, the rescue centre isn’t able to offer them a permanent home, and as we have worked so closely with them in the past, they once again reached out for help. In January 2018 Five Sisters Zoo was able to confirm that we would be re-homing the young bears, and offering them a safe, healthy, and happy life here at the zoo. Hopefully, with a little TLC they’ll learn how to be bears again!

Pictured below, the bears are enjoying life at the help centre in Belgium, where a team of dedicated staff have been caring for them. They now have ample space to move around, and, as these pictures show, enjoy playing with the recently felled logs. We can’t wait to bring them to the zoo!

Just look at the difference after being at Natuurhulpcentrum for only a few months – they don’t look like the same bears! The two bears are very similar in appearance, but the keepers at the help centre have given us a few pointers to help tell who is who. Eso, the female, is smaller and has darker fur than Henk. She has a much darker brown face than Henk, who is lighter in colour.

Arrival at Five Sisters

We are delighted to confirm that just after midnight on the 5th May 2018, the two new bears arrived at the zoo. They were unloaded, weighed and safely transferred to the indoor den of the existing bear sanctuary.  Henk and Eso were left to rest overnight and recover from their long journey.

While we have not had to build a new enclosure from scratch, we have had to make some alterations to our current bear enclosure. The two new bears will be kept separate from Carmen and Suzy for the time being (don’t worry – there’s plenty of space for them all), taking turns in the woodland area. They will have contact with each other through the mesh fence, and so we might eventually be able to integrate them all but our first priority is making sure all the bears feel safe and happy.

Henk and Eso were out first thing on Saturday morning exploring their new surroundings.  Whilst you are still able to see the two young rescue bears, we have put a temporary barrier in place so that they are not surrounded and overwhelmed. This will hopefully allow them to relax in their new home and get to know and trust their keepers.  Thank you for your patience and understanding.

They are absolutely stunning and we are so proud to be able to offer them a permanent home!

We are hugely grateful to everyone who has donated time and money to help us re-home the bears! You have helped us to create their forever home!


The Bears In Action