For years now World Animal Protection and our incredible supporters have helped our partner, Asociatia Milioane de Prieteni (AMP), to create and run a world-renowned bear sanctuary in Zarnesti, Romania - Libearty Bear Sanctuary
Libearty is a beautiful forest sanctuary - a safe haven for 106 bears, mostly rescued from cruel captivity. Many were kept as “attractions,” living in appalling conditions and fed inadequate diets. Some were rescued from being killed in the wild as ‘pest’ bears.
With the shutdown in tourism due to COVID-19, the sanctuary is no longer able to be self-sufficient, putting the 106 bears at risk. Donations are now needed to ensure the bears are fed and cared for.
One of the bears at risk is the recently released Roxana.
Roxana was used as a photo prop along the coast of the Black Sea in Romania. Her days were full of stress as she was forced into the hands of stranger upon stranger for profit.
After the age of three, when she was likely no longer ‘cute’ enough for photos, she was sent to Bârlad Zoo. This is where she remained for 12 long years, prior to her release to Libearty Bear Sanctuary this past November.
It was during her time at the zoo that she was bullied so badly by the fellow two bears to the point of injury, and she retreated to a small cage within the enclosure. Even there she was not safe. The other two bears would swipe and claw at her from outside the bars. Can you imagine spending years in a small cage, fearing for your life?
Although Roxana still suffers from the emotional trauma of those years in isolation, she is now slowly getting better as she is finally free to roam through the forest and swim in one of the many pools at Libearty. We can’t allow this pandemic to take away her new-found freedom.
The situation is dire for Roxana and all of these bears, as explained by Christina Lapis, Manager of AMP and Libearty:
“Our income is down to almost zero, but our expenses are the same as before, or even higher because we don’t get as much free food and we have to take some measures for staff that cannot use public transport anymore.”
“This sanctuary is the bears’ only chance to live free from cruel captivity that they have endured for years. It is an example in Romania and has contributed to change people’s point of view regarding keeping bears and wildlife in cages.”
How have the bears lives been impacted already?
The bears are still being fed daily, but the food reserves are diminishing. The sanctuary staff are still working to maintain the sanctuary fences, pools, roads, forests and to collect what food they can for the bears. So far, the bears and staff are still healthy, and the staff are taking precautions while they work there.
With your support, we plan on providing them with the funds they need to do the vital work to care for the bears so that they are fed, kept healthy and can continue to enjoy their environment at this incredible forest sanctuary.
What will happen if things continue in this way? How will the bears be impacted?
It is expected that the travel restrictions will prevent the sanctuary from opening for many months. This means a huge loss of income they would normally get from around 30,000 visitors each year.
Without that income AMP simply cannot buy the two tonnes of food needed for the 106 bears each day.
The sanctuary is also a huge area situated in 69-hectares of oak forest. It needs constant maintenance, which is undertaken by a team of sanctuary staff. This is vital and difficult work that is necessary to give the bears, who have already suffered enough before being rescued, the environment they need to be able to live a good life.
Libearty Bear Sanctuary hopes that later this year – or it may even be next year, when the travel restrictions are lifted, that the sanctuary will open again to visitors. They will be able to see the fantastic work that we and AMP have done to help these bears.
But for now, we need to step in and provide them with the funding they need to protect these bears.
Why is it so important we protect and help them?
World Animal Protection and AMP have spent over 10 years building this wonderful forest sanctuary and rescuing bears from cruel captivity in Romania. This was done through the help of our supporters around the world, who sent donations to help rescue these bears and to build the amazing sanctuary.
The sanctuary has become a source of national pride for Romania and many countries have copied this project to save bears in other countries. The sanctuary has also been widely used in Romania as an educational area where schools send children to learn about the need to protect animals.
These bears have already suffered so much – we can’t let them down now. Your donation today will help feed and care for the bears until Libearty can open its doors to visitors once again. You support today ensures we can be there when bears and other animals need us the most.