Enclosure opens at Zarnesti Bear Sanctuary to house last 25 bears held in illegal captivity in Romania

Twenty years after building the world's first bear sanctuary, together with local partner Asociatia Milioane De Prieteni (AMP) we opened the final enclosure at the Zarnesti Bear Sanctuary this week in the Carpathian Mountains, Romania.

Now the largest bear sanctuary in Europe, the Sanctuary will provide a home for the last twenty-five bears left in illegal captivity in Romania, which we plan to rescue over the next few years.

In 1992, we were the first organization to launch a global campaign to rescue and protect bears from cruelty. We then went on to develop the world's first bear sanctuary in Greece. We wanted to be able to provide a safe and natural space for bears rescued from captivity, to enjoy a natural environment - with room to climb, play, hibernate, eat and sleep. Since then, we have gone on to open bear sanctuaries with local partners in Europe and in Asia.

Romania is home to Europe's largest bear population and currently has over 6000 brown bears living in the wild. In 2006, with partner AMP, we built Romania's first bear sanctuary in Zarnesti. It currently houses 60 bears who have been rescued from illegal and cruel captive conditions.

Victor Watkins, WSPA's Wildlife Adviser, says that many bears still face a difficult future.

“Going forward, our biggest challenge is now to protect wild bears from being captured and exploited for profit in the cruel and entirely unnecessary bear bile industry. Across East and South East Asia thousands of bears kept captive in this industry experience a lifetime of mental and physical anguish, being farmed for their bile to be used in medicines.”

Have a look at our Facebook photo essay of one of the bears we rescued from Onesti Zoo and the rescued bears enjoying life in the newly opened enclosure at the Sanctuary >>

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