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Homecoming Bern bears return to improved habitat

Bears arrived in Bern Monday after spending "summer holidays" in the Jura mountains

(Bernd Schildger)

Bern’s celebrated bears returned on Monday to a newly renovated home in the Swiss capital, after spending the past months at a zoo in western Switzerland.

The bears, known as Björk, Finn and Ursina, had been transferred to an animal park in Vallorbe, while renovation work was carried out.

The head of the city’s bear park, Peter Schlup, told that after weeks of preparation, his team was happy that the transfer from Vallorbe in the canton of Vaud, went well.

The bears, he said, were “trained for three weeks with good food in the cages. They were very quiet when they arrived, and slept for a bit”.

Björk, Finn and Ursina, the Swiss capital's mascots, were transported in separate crates


Soon after, staff at the bear-park, located across a bridge from the city’s old town, opened the cages. Schulp said the animals were “now exploring their old-new habitat. We are happy they are doing well”.

Bern Schildger, director of Bern’s zoo, which includes the bear-park, explained that anaesthetics were not required during the animals’ transport, as they were already familiar with the crates.

During its renovation, the bears’ riverside habitat was planted with 500 new bushes, and new trees intended for climbing. A shallow pond situated near the river now offers bubbly water.

Renovations were initially intended to last two years with the bears staying in the park. But after the public voiced concerns about how construction noise may possibly harm the bears, a decision was made to take the animals on “summer holidays” to the Juraparc in the mountain chain bordering France.

On the other side of the enclosure, renovations include an elevator to carry disabled visitors to the area's various levels.

The bears represent a key tourist attraction in the capital, where the earliest reports of a bear pit date from 1549. According to legend, the city’s founder, Duke Berchtold V von Zähringen, named the town after a bear that he killed in the region, in 1191. Later the bear also became the city’s heraldic symbol.

Bern's bear park before renovations


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