In 2020 lion cubs Simba and Kossara were the latest victims born in a cruel cage in a small and old public facility in the city of Blagoevgrad in southwestern Bulgaria. Their birth in early July, reportedly a result of inbreeding, was kept secret, but several days later media found out and reported about the already weakened little cubs. Following public pressure, the local authorities of Blagoevgrad organised for the cubs to be taken to an animal clinic in the capital Sofia.
It was the fourth time in three years that lion cubs were born in cruel conditions and with bleak prospects in Bulgaria. For years, the Bulgarian Ministry of Environment and Waters has been legalising inappropriate facilities which keep different wild animal species, by granting them a zoo permit, without ensuring that they meet husbandry, conservation and education standards. Even the facilities which remain illegal have been allowed to continue to keep and breed wild animals.
This must stop. We need your help to save many wild animals from a life confined in cruel cages and call upon the Bulgarian Prime Minister and the Bulgarian Minister for Environment to #CloseCruelCages. We also call upon the EU Commissioner for Environment to ensure that Bulgaria ends the legalisation of inappropriate wild animal keeping!
Subject: Systematic failure of Zoo Directive enforcement in Bulgaria
Dear Prime Minister,
Dear Minister for Environment and Waters,
I hereby share my concerns about the poor keeping of wild animals in Bulgaria and urge you to properly enforce the Zoo Directive and no longer allow and legalise their inappropriate keeping.
As you are aware, in the European Union, Member States have to implement the Zoo Directive, which aims to ensure that zoos contribute to the conservation of biodiversity and have a purpose of public education.
Requirements for zoos include meeting the biological requirements of animals and contributing to conservation, education and research. Despite being a Member State since 2007, Bulgaria systematically fails to ensure zoos adhere to any of the required functions.
On the contrary, the Bulgarian Ministry of Environment and Water has been purposefully legalising inappropriate facilities which keep wild animal species by granting them a zoo permit, without ensuring that they meet husbandry, conservation and education standards. Even facilities which remain illegal have been allowed to continue to keep and breed wild animals. The international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS has compiled evidence of inappropriate conditions, poor health and welfare, uncontrolled breeding and zoos operating either without a licence or with a licence despite not fulfilling the requirements. Despite ample evidence, public pressure and support for improvements, the responsible Ministry fails to properly enforce the Zoo Directive in Bulgaria.
One of the incidents is the birth of lion cubs Simba and Kossara in the town of Blagoevgrad in early July. The cubs are reportedly inbred, and their prospects very bleak. It is the fourth time in the past three years that lion cubs are born in such circumstances in Bulgaria. In 2019, two lion cubs died shortly after they were born and not properly taken care of in Haskovo. Two other cubs survived and kept in a small cage with the sole purpose to attract visitors, while no long-term capacity exists for them. In February 2018, FOUR PAWS was able to rescue two inbred lion cubs which were born in Razgrad, thanks to the support and protests of Bulgarian activists and the animal welfare community. Despite receiving the best possible health care after their rescue, one of the lions died in July 2020 as a result from severe health problems caused by inbreeding and the poor conditions under which his life started in Bulgaria. Many more cases of neglect and abuse have been reported, including other wild animal species and additional facilities.
I urge the Bulgarian Prime Minister and the Bulgarian Minister for Environment and Waters to properly enforce the Zoo Directive in Bulgaria, by ending breeding of wild animals in inappropriate facilities, closing illegal and inappropriate facilities and properly implementing and enforcing the Zoo Directive.
I urge the Commissioner Sinkevičius to make sure Bulgaria complies with its European duties and ends legalisation of inappropriate wild animal keeping in Bulgaria.
With kind regards,