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Arcturos Environmental Center & Bear Sactuary

Mythology has it that Arcturos was the bear guardian. Following Zeus appointment of Callisto and her son into constellations of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, he also placed another star, Arcturos, nearby to protect them for eternity. In reality, ARCTUROS has the exact same role.

ARCTUROS is a civil, non-governmental and non-profit environmental organization that was established in 1992 from Yannis Boutaris, the major of Thessaloniki, in order to protect the wildlife and natural environment of Greece, and enhance biodiversity and sustainability in the Greek rural areas.


The occasion of its foundation was the need to find immediate solution to the need to growing problem of captive bears and wolves, an occasion that led to an integrated framework of actions. Furtermore, ARCTUROS implements cross-border projects in order to protect mountainous ecosystems, with an emphasis on bears and large mammals, and aims at the integrated management of protected regions and the provision of expertise for natural environment interventions.


Within the program of ARCTUROS is the development of scientific studies, which provide environmental education and public awareness on biodiversity issues and sustainability, while trying to exert political pressure based on integrated solutions. What is more, ARCTUROS provides advice on building roads with the intention of avoiding disruption to habitats and reduce deaths caused by cars.


Every year, ARCTUROS enriches its activities by covering a wide range of actions for the protection of wildlife. The most important addition is the controlled reproduction and perpetuation of the Greek shepherd dog breed, that they provide to farmers of mountainous areas, to help them protect their flocks from bear attacks, thereby avoiding the unnecessary killing of wild bears. By this way, ARTUROS contributes to the harmonious coexistence of man and wildlife.


One of the most notable achievements of ARCTUROS is that Greece became the first EU country to ban all animal performances in 2012.

ARCTUROS is an organization that has as a main driving force, the love of the world.


The Name of ARCTUROS


Callisto, the daughter of Arcadia’s king, swore eternal loyalty to Artemis as a young girl. As she gave her virginity and promised to serve only the goddess, she started chasing wild beasts in the woods. Since she wanted to trick her, Callisto took the form of Artemis, and managed to lie down with her. Arcadas was born out of this love. However, Zeus knew that Hera would be angry from her jealousy, so he decided to transform her into a bear.


When Arcadas grew up into a man, Callisto the bear wanted to grasp him in her arms. To prevent the matricide, Zeus tranformed them into the constellations of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.


Furious Hera asked from the Ocean to never let them bath in the river’ waters that surround the earth. That’s why the two constellations never set down. Finally, Zeus placed a star near them in order to accompany them and protect them in eternity. This star was Arcturos.


The Brown Bear


Brown bears once ranged all across Europe. Human intervention, though, on the forest habitats through the construction of large road networks, indiscriminate opening of forest roads, illegal logging and placement of wind turbines has made them one of the most important endangered species. The sustainable effort of ARCTUROS activities, however, has a huge impact in the bear population of Greece.


The first systematic effort to recond the bear population of Greece was published in an article in the Journal of Nature Conservation. According to the study, there has been a significant increase in the bear population of Greece over the past fifteen years. In fact, Greece’s bear population is considered to be the most significant in the Balkan Peninsula. The innovative method employed for the recording of Greece’s bear population, introduced by Karamanlidis himself, is what sets Arcturos apart from other similar nonprofit environmental organizations. ARCTUROS has setted up hair traps on 300 wooden utility poles, where bears have a habit of scratching. Byt his way, they can record the bear population, since they know each pole’s exact location using GPS technology.


As one of the main aims of ARCTUROS is to secure the brown bear’s survival on an international level, its team cooperates with Slovenia and Croatia, two countries that conduct good research, and have a common database in which all animals are registered. By this way, ARCTUROS is able to analyze and compare the genetic profile of the Greek brown bear.


The bear sanctuary provides shelter for captive bears, as one of the main objectives of ARCTUROS is to end the illegal captivity of bears. There are ten bears in the bear sanctuary, who were either former dancing bears, captive bears from zoos or orphaned cubs. Rescued bears remain at the sanctuary for the rest of their lives, provided that their circumstances exclude any possibility of rehabilitation and reintroduction to their natural environment. The bear sanctuary not only provides near-natural living conditions for rescued bears, but also helps to educate thousands of visitors every year about the the development of the species, the geographic distribution of their population, biology and ecology of brown bears and the threats they face in the wild.