Bear Jambolina
A partnership withFour PawsArosa


The complete story of Jambolina, the bear from the Ukraine.


On 11 December 2020, Jambolina found a new home at the Arosa Bear Sanctuary.


Jambolina’s past in the Ukraine
A brown bear balances on a rope wearing a red mini skirt, walks on her hands and rides a scooter in the arena. Jambolina spent her whole life in the Ukraine performing tricks with her trainer for the amusement of the audience. At the age of just five weeks, Jambolina, who was born in a zoo, was bought by a Ukrainian trainer, reared by hand, and trained. Numerous circus appearances followed, often involving long journeys in conditions not fit for her species. After her appearances in the arena, she lived in a small cage. With the outbreak of Covid-19, the owner could no longer perform and he kept Jambolina in a 4m2 cage in his garage. Now and again, the trainer would go walking in the woods with Jambolina on a leash. For financial reasons, the trainer was forced to give up Jambolina in 2020. Fortunately, he handed her over voluntarily to the animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS, who brought Jambolina to the Arosa Bear Sanctuary on 11 December 2020.

Jambolinas Vergangenheit
Jambolina im Zirkus


  • Born on 15 January 2009 in the Ukraine
  • Former circus bear
  • Hand-reared by the trainer
  • Weight: Late autumn 160kg / early summer 100kg
  • Character: Active and curious
  • † 05/08/2021 at the Arosa Bear Sanctuary
  • From the Ukraine to the Arosa Bear Sanctuary

From the Ukraine to the Arosa Bear Sanctuary

How Jambolina found her natural instincts
During captivity, Jambolina never had the opportunity to behave like a wild animal and she developed distinct behavioural problems. This was to change after her release. The natural environment of the Arosa Bear Sanctuary offers the right conditions for her to live out her innate needs (instincts) and to learn natural behaviour. The goal of the animal keepers was always that Jambolina would be able to completely cast off her behavioural problems. Due to her difficult past, this development took several weeks.

 After her arrival at the Arosa Bear Sanctuary, Jambolina carefully explored her new and unfamiliar environment and sniffed everything. After the second day, her behavioural problems became apparent as she began to walk around in a circle for up to 10 hours each day. The circle was a little larger than her former cage. This pattern of behaviour is a clear sign that being kept in a cage had caused serious psychological trauma. However, Jambolina did find peace at the Arosa Bear Sanctuary. She pulled long-stalk straw and pine branches into her cave and withdrew. At the end of December, she was finally able to do something that had been denied to her for years: she enjoyed the first, well-deserved hibernation of her life. Innate behaviour does not go away.

Jambolina im Stall
Jambolinas erste Winterruhe

Jambolina enjoyed a completely normal hibernation. Now and again, she would stand in the cave, rearrange the nest material, and immediately lie down again. She sometimes took this opportunity to leave the cave, only to explore the area directly in front of the cave, and would then return immediately. Every two to three weeks, we could see that she defecated and urinated a little. In mid-April 2021, she became increasingly active and began to feed a little.

Because Jambolina was never exposed to other bears during her captivity, her first encounter with Meimo and Amelia must have been a huge challenge for her. But on 23 April 2021, it was time. Meimo left his winter quarters in the outdoor enclosure and went inside. When Jambolina spotted him through the fence, she was frightened. She withdrew to her shed and, just like when she arrived, she started to walk around in a circle for up to ten hours each day. Jambolina was obviously very anxious. After that, Meimo and Amelia came into the indoor enclosure every day and the three bears could see, smell and hear each other through the fence. Gradually, Jambolina learned how to behave like a bear. She began to sniff Meimo through the inside fence and Meimo accepted this calmly. Amelia and Jambolina kept their distance, as is typical for bears. They demonstrated characteristic bear behaviour by opening their jaws (gaping), snorting and flattening their ears. Walking around in circles, a manifestation of Jambolina’s behavioural problems, decreased significantly. This behavioural development showed that by interacting with Meimo and Amelia, Jambolina was able to overcome her initial insecurity and was even able to calmly feed alongside them.

When the three bears come together in summer 2021, Jambolina was able to overcome the initial challenges. She learned how to behave like a bear when confronted with others of her species.

Jambolinas erster Tag in Arosa

First time in the natural environment of Arosa

The next challenge for Jambolina was to become familiar with the South outdoor enclosure. On 29 May 2021, we opened the gate for the first time. Jambolina spotted this immediately, checked the new opening, but hesitated. After 20 minutes, her curiosity overcame her fear and, for the first time in her life, she walked independently into natural and confusing terrain. She immediately found the nearest pond and took a bath.

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After this initial exploration of the outdoor enclosure, Jambolina was very anxious and moved briskly, she galloped around the strange environment, frequently looking back at the open gate, and then, after 30 minutes, she ran back to the familiar indoor enclosure. It was too much for her, and she began to walk around in circles again for hours each day. For five days, she did not leave the indoor enclosure, however several times each day, she looked through the open gate to the wide outdoor enclosure. Then she had a second attempt. She explored all the terrain structures in more depth, however she repeatedly returned to the indoor enclosure to rest. After 14 days, she lay down in the grass for the first time. This was a sign that she was now feeling more confident.

Jambolina Aussenanlage Arosa

When Jambolina had calmly laid down several times in different locations in the outdoor enclosure, we gave her access to the North outdoor enclosure. With her new-found experience, she entered the new area for a few minutes in the morning, but then returned to the familiar indoor enclosure and walked around in a circle. In late afternoon, she had a second attempt, she explored the steep slopes, the forest and bathed frequently in the pond. For the first two days, she rested only in the indoor enclosures. However, to our surprise, she then slept in the forest for the following nights. A sure sign that she was now familiar with the terrain.

In the meantime, we observed Meimo and could see that he was interested in Jambolina. He frequently walked along the separating fence between the two outdoor enclosures. Jambolina was then in season. This was the ideal time to let Jambolina and Meimo meet each other.


First meeting of Jambolina and Meimo


On 22 June 2021, for the first time in her life, Jambolina met a bear without being separated by a fence. Initially, she and Meimo kept their distance in the South outdoor enclosure before they made nose-to-nose contact (for more information, see the report Socialisation with Meimo). As expected, there was mutual interest and their meeting was positive. They ran around one other playfully, bathed together and grazed together in the grass. However, Jambolina fought off any attempt by Meimo to mate. Jambolina had learned naturally how to handle a male bear.

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First meeting of Jambolina and Amelia

As Jambolina’s season came to an end, we let her meet Amelia on 5 July 2021. Again, they initially both scrutinised each other from a distance. As they approached each other, there were, as expected, threatening gestures. This was a fight for rank. Both postured loudly without touching one another. Within a minute, it was clear that Jambolina would submit. She flattened her ears, made herself smaller and turned to run. Amelia followed and galloped behind Jambolina. She asserted her dominance. When Jambolina gave up after an intensive chase, Amelia - as the victor - let her off. The hierarchy was established. 

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Although Jambolina had never met a bear during her life in the circus in the Ukraine, she was able to handle this situation in a way typical for bears. She learned to avoid Amelia so that she could still look for food in peace. She also had to keep her distance from Meimo sometimes when looking for food. In the following days, we were able to see how Jambolina became increasingly secure and self-confident. In her part of the indoor enclosure, where she spent her first hibernation alone, she successfully asserted herself against the two other bears. If Jambolina was resting in her shed, simply chattering her teeth was enough to drive away Meimo and Amelia. She also put up a fight in the outdoor enclosure so that she could feed at a safe distance from the other two.


Jambolina’s unexpected death

The development of Jambolina was exciting, interesting and impressive. Due to this positive starting position, the dental treatment required by the vet was scheduled for August 5. But then came the low point of 2021, when Jambolina died unexpectedly after an anesthetic injection. After seven minutes of anesthesia, the small residual risk of not waking up during anesthesia struck Jambolina.

Jambolina in Arosa

Jambolina lives on at the Arosa Bear Sanctuary. She is a valued ambassador and popular figure. Her background as a circus bear in the Ukraine and her natural development at Arosa show clearly that we at the Arosa Bear Sanctuary can offer mistreated bears a species-appropriate life.