Romania: A Sanctuary for brown bears

Romania: A Sanctuary for brown bears

As Romania’s brown bears continue to face threats from habitat loss and human encroachment, sanctuaries like Libearty provide a beacon of hope for their survival.

Copyright © africanews


By Euronews


For centuries, the brown bear population in Romania has faced threats from hunters, endangering their existence. However, amidst these challenges, a dedicated few have taken it upon themselves to protect these majestic creatures. Recently, a team from Euronews had the opportunity to visit the forests where bears, including orphaned cubs, have found a sanctuary away from human interference.

Cristina Lapis, the founder of the Libearty bear sanctuary in Zărnești, Romania, has been at the forefront of this conservation effort. When bears venture into urban areas, Lapis and her team are often called upon to intervene. Many of these animals are rescued and brought to the sanctuary, where they can live out their days in peace. 

The sanctuary’s origins trace back over two decades ago when a female bear named Maya, held captive in Bran, captured Lapis’s heart. Despite her efforts to save Maya, captivity syndrome ultimately claimed the bear’s life. This tragic loss inspired Lapis to dedicate herself to protecting other bears from similar fates.

Captivity syndrome, a condition where bears become so accustomed to captivity that they struggle to adjust to freedom, is a significant challenge faced by rescued bears. Even when released into the wild, these bears may continue to exhibit behaviors learned in captivity, such as pacing along the perimeter of their former enclosures. To address this issue, the sanctuary in the Hășmaș mountains provides a haven for orphaned bears, offering them a chance to live as close to their natural habitat as possible.

Lapis emphasizes the importance of freedom for bears, acknowledging that it is a gift bestowed upon all living beings at birth. While the sanctuary provides a safe haven for rescued bears, the ultimate goal is to prevent bears from being taken from their natural habitats in the first place. An electric fence serves as a reminder to the bears that they will never experience true freedom again, serving as a stark contrast to the vast forests that surround them.

Upon arrival at the sanctuary, bears have minimal contact with humans, ensuring that they do not become accustomed to human presence. This approach allows the bears to develop and thrive in their natural environment, away from the pressures and dangers posed by human interaction.

Through their dedication and compassion, Cristina Lapis and her team continue to provide a lifeline for Romania’s brown bears, offering hope for the survival of these iconic creatures in the face of ongoing challenges.

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