Libearty is a bear sanctuary in Romania. What makes it so special? Well, the stories of the bears and their happy ending.
We went to visit Libearty in august, on a rainy day. Even though it was heavily raining and the temperatures were pretty low for summer, we decided that this was once in a lifetime experience and we mustn’t miss it.
Keep in mind that you can visit the bear sanctuary only in organised groups with a guide. The bear caretakers and the guides are really friendly and eager to answer your every question. We went to a wet summer stroll on the sanctuary’s roads with an international group. The guide spoke to us in English. Before going to see the bears we watched a short clip where it was explained how this sanctuary was built and why. Very emotional clip. I almost cried.
Happy endings for the bears at the bear sanctuary in Romania
As the visiting hours are only between 9 and 11 o’clock because these are the feeding hours of the bears (otherwise they stay hidden in the bushes), some of the animals were already near the fences waiting for their food when we arrived. Some were small, some big, some old, some young, some golden faced and some with almost black fur. However, even though they were pretty majestic and fascinating, their life stories were more than that.
Photo source: REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel
As we walked down the alleys of the 70 hectares (160 acres) domain that was now their forever home we were told some of the stories of the bears we saw.
The saddest story in the bear sanctuary: the bear blinded with needles…on purpose
All the 80 bears that live in this sanctuary were saved from private cages and circuses. It was so sad seeing how some of them were still going in circles as they had been doing for so many years in private cages. The tormenting of the cage is huge for a bear as it is an animal that, in wilderness, would walk tens of miles per day. Imagine how cruel it is to keep such an animal in a small enclosure.
The oldest bear there was 43 years old. He was moving slowly and it was visible that he is really old. Near him, there was a female…wolf. She was jumping all around him. She only had eyes for this old bear. The guide told us that they were best friends. It seems that the female wolf was born in a zoo but she has never been accepted by the pack there. So she was adopted by the bear sanctuary. The friendship between the bear and the wolf was amazing.
The most impressing story was the one of a big black bear that was blind. He wasn’t that old, but he was intentionally blinded by people. For over ten years he was tied to a tree with a chain so that tourists would have a photo with a live bear. His so called owners intentionally punctured his eyes with needles so he couldn’t attack. His story is heart breaking, but seeing him again among trees and bushes brought some comfort. The guide said that it was pretty hard for this bear to adapt in the bear sanctuary as he was constantly hitting his head on the electrified fence.
Note: The area covered by the bear sanctuary is huge and you can only see the bears near the fences as they come for food. I admit that, at some point, I also thought that in some way they are still in a cage. A much much bigger one, but still in cage with electrified fence. However, the guide explained that all those bears couldn’t adapt in the wilderness. This is the best scenario situation for them. The electrified fences are important so that they do not run away. If they did that they would be sitting ducks for hunters and for other bears in the area.
All in all, I totally recommend you to visit this place. Maybe it is heartbreaking to see bears that had miserable lives until now, but it is important to come. By buying the ticket you contribute to their welfare.
When, where, how much?
The Libearty bear sanctuary – based in the oak forests above the town of Zarnesti in central Transylvania is open to visitors every day besides Monday, from 9 am to 11 am. They have guides to show round groups of visitors on a daily basis and you can see the rescued bears enjoying life in the forested sanctuary areas.
But if you want to make a visit you first have to contact the Romanian bear sanctuary office which is based in Brasov city. Tell them when you want to visit – and give them at least a few days’ notice to be sure they have space for you in their daily tour.
Their contact details are:
Phone: +40 268 471 202
or see their web site for details at: http://ampbears.ro/en/bear-sanctuary
The bear sanctuary is near Zarnesti, a small town near Brasov city. From this town there is a 2 kilometers road to the sanctuary.
Here is the map of how you can get from Bucharest (capital) to Brasov city and then to the Libearty sanctuary in Zarnesti.
The ticket prices are 40 lei (8 euros) for adults and 10 lei (2 euros) for children and students. Try to be at the sanctuary as early as possible as you must catch a group to visit. You are not allowed to do it by yourself.
You can also help by making a donation direct to the Romanian bear sanctuary at: http://www.ampbears.ro/
or to the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) who are supporting the rescue and care of bears at the Romanian sanctuary. http://www.wspa.org.uk