Female bear JJ4, who was captured and locked up for killing a jogger in Italy, is innocent, animal welfare organization Leal said on Monday, citing forensic evidence. The organization demands the immediate release of the bear, who has three children who were left alone in the wild when JJ4 was captured.
Leal presented a compelling argument backed by forensic reports, suggesting a male bear -JJ4 is female- was responsible.
On April 5, 26-year-old Andrea Papi was killed while jogging near his village of Caldes in Trentino. The 17-year-old bear, JJ4, perceived as “problematic” by local authorities, was quickly captured and placed in an animal enclosure pending a court decision on Thursday regarding her fate.
The case has put Maurizio Fugatti, the president of Trentino province, who wants to kill the bear, in conflict with animal rights activists fighting for JJ4’s release.
Leal has presented two forensic reports to the regional administrative court. The reports claim to clear JJ4, who has been separated from her cubs, of the fatal attack. The DNA tests conducted on the bite marks found on Papi’s body suggest that the attacker was an adult male bear, not JJ4.
In a statement, Leal declared, “JJ4 is innocent.” They further explained that in veterinary science, animal teeth hold the same identifying value as human fingerprints. Therefore, the DNA evidence “denies the lies told by Fugatti.”
The reports also concluded that the nature of the attack seemed more like an attempt by the bear to create distance and frighten the victim, rather than a deliberate or predatory attack.
Alongside the immediate release of JJ4 from the high-security enclosure in Castellar, Leal is demanding Fugatti’s “immediate resignation.”
Fugatti has remained firm in his opinion. Last week, he declared, “JJ4 will be killed when the court allows it to happen.” The president had previously ordered JJ4 to be put down after a 2020 attack on two hikers. However, the court revoked this order due to pressure from animal rights groups and the environment minister at the time, Sergio Costa. Consequently, JJ4 was fitted with a radio collar, but the battery eventually died, making the bear’s location untraceable.
JJ4’s story began in Trento, where two bears brought from Slovenia in the early 2000s mated as part of the Life Ursus project, aimed at reversing the area’s dwindling brown bear population.
Today, there are approximately 100 bears in the Trento area, and human encounters are becoming increasingly common.