(dpa) - After nearly three months of preparations a bear started Tuesday a trip to France to escape the cruel conditions of his captivity in his native Bosnia, Banja Luka daily Nezavisne novine reported Wednesday.
A big brown bear named Miljen was first captured eight years ago after his mother was killed in the woods of the mountain Grmec in north-western Bosnia.
The hunters sold the baby bear to an owner of a local hotel and a zoo in the town of Prijedor, who put him in cage in which Miljen spent eight years, living in very poor conditions.
The situation was critical in the last two years after the zoo was closed and captured animals left to the mercy of neighbours who fed them from time to time.
When Miljen was found, he weighted only some 75 kilos, which was critical condition for a bear with the expected weight of 250 kilos.
After the story about the poor bear was discovered early this year, the Banja Luka-based Association for Protection of Animals (NOA) initiated a rescue operation, calling on their French colleagues for help.
French organization Respectons (www.respectons.com) immediately responded and organized the rescue operation to transport Miljen from his cage in Prijedor to Refuge de l'Arche (www.refuge-arche.org), a refuge centre for animals in Chateau-Gontier near Paris.
"I am happy that Miljen is travelling to a safe place where he will feel like he's in real nature," director of Respectons Patrick Sacco told media.
Sacco said Miljen would be able to enjoy 10,000 hectares of fields and woods in the Arche and to play with two female bears of his species.
Miljen was transported to his new and improved home in a special van, accompanied by a veterinary expert for wild animals from France.
Some 12,000 euros (19,120 dollars) was spent for Miljen's rescue operation.