I love adventures in the real life. Experiences beyond the expected. Those experiences that comes along the way.
I was very happy about the program, before the departure of the “GirlsWeekend” to Brasov hosted by Ethical Travel Portal. The tempting and authentic hiking from village to village, a professional painting workshop, free time in charming Brasov, and at last a visit to Bran Castle, better known as Dracula’s Castle. But, at the moment our guide, already the first night, told us about his last hike where the tourist had seen bears, could I not hold it back. I expressed loudly that I also wanted to see bears!!! My enthusiasm convinced finally our guide to make changes in the program, and it was time for another adventure.
Ethical Travel Portal had the knowledge of a bear sanctuary outside Brasov, and it could not have been better for me, since I have been interested in animal rights since my teens. It was not possible to be anything else than highly impressed by the flexibility of ETP’s partner in Romania, who suddenly had booked a visit to «Libearty Sanctuary».
The air was rainy at the moment we passed by Zarnesti on our way to the bear sanctuary. We were greeted by the security guards friendly “Teddy-bear”-dog, a wagging beautiful lady, with puppies soon to come. We were then told to follow a small secured path to the office. A movie was screened and we were soon to be served the history of the brown bears in Romania, and the reasons behind the need of this sanctuary.
According to my guidebook, does Romania today have approximately 60 % of Europe’s Brown bears. It’s said that the earlier dictator prohibited all hunting at the bears. Not to protect the bears, but for himself to have unlimited access to hunt for bears.
Unfortunately is there still existing an tradition across the world, especially in Turkey and Hellas, but also in India, Bangladesh and Romania, where bears are kept in captivity, for example to act as dancing bears. The World Society of Protection of Animals (WSPA) has been working with bears in captivity since 1992. They started a project together with the Romanian enthusiast Christina Lapis, who already managed a shelter for street dogs in Romania through the organization «Asociatia Milioane de Prieteni» in English, «Millions of Friends». Together did they reveal serious abuse of bears held in captivity in Romania. Some of the bears had been used as a source of income when the tourists paid the owner for shooting photos of the bear. Others had been used as a stop-effect at petroleum stations and restaurants, still others had been kept in zoos. The histories were many.
In 2005, after many years of hard work, was the donation based forest from the local authority at an area of 70 hectares was opened for the three first bears to come to Libearty namely Cristi, Lydia and Odi.
We met a young and relaxed man who guided us around. He seemed to have been affected by the apparently leisurely life of the bears. Just outside the office was the first big enclosure for some of the sanctuary’s bears. Each bear had their own nameplate made out of timber with the date of their arrival at Libearty.
It was magical to suddenly be standing approximately 1 meter from a big teddy bear, who didn’t seem to notice me at all. The fascination was huge from my side. They were big and impressing animals in almost their true element. Most of the bears at Libearty are operating in herd. They have big areas to move on, and the enclosures even have pools, something which seems popular.
But a couple of the bears had a past history that made them even today being more comfortable alone or in small groups. One of them was Max. He came to Libearty already in 2008. He was the one bear out of the 60 who made the strongest impression on me. Max just sat there. Our guide told us that he probably had been blinded by needles, to avoid him reacting in his natural way, if people came close to him. Because, during the first 10 years of his life, Max was chained outside an restaurant, near one of Romania’s biggest tourist attractions, namely Peles Castle. Tourist took photos of Max and the owner got paid for it. At arrival at Libearty had these big bear even problems with walking because of the motion dispossession he had been a victim of. Max was now sitting at his back, snacking at a big piece of watermelon. And even for a person unexperienced with bears, did it seems like he had a good time now.
Written by Miriam Jøms