Libearty bear sanctuary is a proper sanctuary that we fully endorse and recommend that everybody visit if they can. There are strict rules about visiting, read on if you want to know how you can visit.
I hate animal exploitation
It is my absolute pet hate to see animals being exploited for human gains and it is something that we discuss quite frequently.
We confess that in the past (before we realised how cruel they were) we were guilty of going to zoos, petting zoos, safari parks and aquariums and because we didn’t do enough research we unknowingly added to the unhappiness of elephants and were part of a group that fed orangutans. Shame on us!
My other pet hate is seeing tourists exploited by places proclaiming to be ‘sanctuaries’ and in fact being just as cruel to the animals that have been ‘saved’.
Of course tourists need to wise up and realise the harm they do but by the time they arrive at the sanctuaries it’s often too late and they’ve already unwittingly financed further cruelty! It can be very hard to tell how genuine a sanctuary actually is.
What is the Libearty Bear Sanctuary?
Imagine my surprise then when in Romania we came across a real, proper sanctuary that has incredibly strict rules.
It has to be said that in the past Romania has not had the best human rights record and therefore animal rights came low down the pecking order but the Libearty Bear Sanctuary is a true testament to how animal’s lives can be turned around by the positive actions of people and legislation.
How did the Libearty bear sanctuary come about?
In 1998 a Romanian woman, Cristina Lapis, saw three bears in a small cage outside a restaurant in central Romania. She learned that these bears were used to attract customers into the restaurant.
Lapis subsequently found additional 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.
When was the Libearty Bear Sanctuary founded?
The sancutary was founded in 2005 and since it’s opening it has rescued 105 bears as well as a few other animals. All of the bears had been subjected to abuse, neglect or deliberate injury.
Due to this they all lacked any natural skills a bear should have and many cannot be released although they do release those that can survive.
How to get there
The Libearty bear sanctuary is half an hour outside Brasov and three hours north of Bucharest.
It is located in the small town of Zarnesti. From the main road is a 2km dirt track you’ll need to take.
Visiting the Libearty Bear Sanctuary
Of course we had to visit on the coldest and wettest day of our trip to Romania but as we were leaving for Bulgaria the day after it was the only time we could visit.
The visiting hours are between 9 and 11 am due to the feeding hours of the bears (otherwise they stay hidden in the forest). Some of the animals were already near the fences waiting for their food when we arrived.
The bears come in all shapes, sizes and colours. However, even though they were pretty majestic and fascinating, their life stories were more than that. As you make your way around the sanctuary, your guide will explain their life stories but be prepared they’re pretty horrific.
How much did it cost?
You NO longer have to pre-book tickets BUT you do have to turn up at prescribed times. The cost is between 40-55 Lei. See HERE for visit times as they change between winter/summer.
CHILDREN UNDER FIVE ARE NOT ALLOWED.
There are a number of packages that you can buy, for example a private tour will cost €150 and you can find this info on their website.
Libearty Visiting rules
Before being allowed entry to the libearty bear sanctaury, you must adhere to the following rules
- This is not a zoo!
- It is the bears’ forest and so please respect that!
- Do not throw food to the bears!
- Please switch off your mobile as the noise can disturb the bears!
- Do not use camera flash as it can frighten the bears.
- Do not eat or drink in front of the bears! It is impolite!
- Smoking is forbidden!
- Do not leave rubbish on the ground in the forest.
- Do not approach the electric fence – it is dangerous!
- Stay together, follow the guide and patiently listen our stories!
- Do not make any noise!
The tour guide
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 questions and the guides are conducted in Romanian and English.
How much land do the bears have?
The area covered by the bear sanctuary is huge, about 160 acres of hazel and oak forest in the Carpathian Mountains.
The land was donated by the Transylvanian town of Zarnesti and allows the bears to lead a semi wild existence. The only time you will see them is at feeding time when they venture down to the fences for food.
What do the bears do now?
Here, the bears hide out in the forest, 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 where they can learn new survival skills.
The saddest story in the bear sanctuary
All the bears that live in this sanctuary were saved from small enclosures, circuses, cages and private zoos and although they’re now free some bears have never recovered mentally or physically.
It is a little sad to see how some bears pace or walk in circles but it is a chronic reminder that bears in the wilderness walk tens of miles per day and that they do not belong in captivity.
Perhaps the saddest story there is not the oldest bear or the most mentally tormented but the bear that was deliberately blinded by having needles stuck into his eye. Of course this bear is blinded for life and it has taken him some time to adapt to life at the sanctuary. For this bear, even a happy ending is not that happy.
Watching the bears
The bears return to the fences around feeding time which makes it possible for visitors to observe them living in a natural, almost-wild setting.
Unless you’re prepared to get out of bed at 3am and hike up the Romanian mountains with a guide, this is as close as you will get to a semi-wild bear!
Why should you visit the sanctuary?
The bear sanctuary receives NO governmental funding. It’s funding comes entirely from people visiting and donating money.
This means all of your money goes directly into the bear sanctuary and will benefit the bears in some way.
For us, visiting the bear sanctuary was heart wrenching but very fulfilling and knowing we were helping these bears’ lives made us feel much better!
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