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Places to Visit Details

Zarnesti, Romania

In 1998 a Romanian woman, Cristina Lapis, saw 3 bears in a small cage outside a restaurant in central Romania where they were used to attract customers. She later found more bears used in a similar way in other areas of the country. Her dream was to rescue these distressed animals and to change public attitudes to stop this cruel and illegal exploitation of one of Romania’s magnificent native animals.

Now that dream is being realized, with over 70 bears enjoying a new life in the Libearty Bear Sanctuary – 70 hectares of oak and hazel forest in the Carpathian Mountains above the Transylvanian town of Zarnesti.

Here, the bears climb trees, swim in the pools and forage on the vegetation. For many of them, having been caught from the wild as cubs, this is a new and stimulating experience.

The Romanian bear sanctuary has helped to create better awareness of the issues affecting bears in Romania. The Romanian public, media and also the authorities have now taken this project to their hearts. The sanctuary has given new life to once-captive bears and is a symbol of optimism for the protection of Romania’s rich natural environment.

The sanctuary construction started in 2005, and today there are over 70 rescued bears living in several large forested enclosures measuring around 66 acres (27 hectares) in total. These forested areas contain large freshwater pools, hibernation dens and hundreds of trees with lush natural vegetation.

A large central sanctuary building contains staff areas, storage and preparation areas for food for the bears, the veterinary clinic and a number of quarantine dens for new or sick bears. Although the bears feed on the vegetation, nuts, and berries available in the forest they do need additional food and the sanctuary staff distributes over a tonne of fruit and vegetables a day around the sanctuary enclosures.

The sanctuary has CCTV cameras on all fences so the staff can monitor the behavior of the bears and also keep an eye on any visitors to the sanctuary.

Organized tours of visitors can be guided around the sanctuary while being told the story of the bear rescues. The bears live in large forested areas and it is their choice whether to stay inside the forest or come out to rest or play in the open meadow areas and pools. This is not a zoo and the welfare of the bears is the priority, but many bears are seen playing and resting near to the fences so visitors generally are able to see these magnificent animals from a safe distance.

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