Romania has plenty of bears. Half of the European brown bear population lives on the forested hills of this beautiful country. When we talk about saving bears, we’re not talking so much about the wild Romanian bears, as the ones who have had a terrible existence, held captive by private owners and in small Eastern European zoo enclosures until fairly recently. This is where the Libearty Bear Sanctuary comes in, in re-homing, rehabilitating and giving these captive bears a chance of ending their days in a more natural environment. We had the opportunity to visit these rescued Romania bears yesterday, their story will break your heart.
To reach the Sanctuary from Brasov we drove through picturesque towns and villages before reaching open countryside and gently rolling hills. Craggy mountains, still capped with snow in June, added a dramatic backdrop. This is typical Romanian farming territory where cows wear bells, shepherds watch flocks and red tasseled horses pull traditional carts. The bears aren’t far away.
The sanctuary is above the town of Zarnesti.
Parking our truck under an oak tree with magnificent valley views, we joined our tour. We were held up by a train crossing the road and so missed the start of the documentary film introducing the sanctuary and its work. From the small media centre an English speaking guide showed us around and introduced us to some of the bears.
I’m not going to give you too much information, it would spoil your visit. But I will tell you that for us it was a thrill to see Romania’s bears for the first time after living here on and off for a year, they’re magnificent animals. So we were both delighted and deeply saddened by our visit. Some, all, of these bears have had lives full of torture and suffering. The sanctuary does what it can to make the rest of their lives more natural and comfortable.
As always, our Aussie/ British kids learned a lot from our visit and were full of questions about the bears and their stories. They love our stays in Romania for the freedom, the simplicity and beauty of village life, the meadows filled with wildflowers and, of course, the Romanian wildlife. What kid wouldn’t get a kick out of wolves and bears.
The European Brown Bear in Romania
Brown Bear Diet
What do brown bears eat? Well, mostly brown bears don’t eat people. Neither are they designed to live on a diet of corn and scraps thrown by tourists, as the inmate of this cell endured for 12 long years. He is now safe at the bear sanctuary near Brasov.
European Brown Bears are omnivores and forage for acorns, plants, fruit, insects, roots and bulbs of plants. When they get hungry enough, they will hunt for meat.
Brown Bear Distribution in Europe and Romania
You can find some rather beautiful animal distribution maps here. You’ll notice that Romanian wildlife isn’t limited to bears, Romania also has wolves and lynx. You can read a post about how our local shepherds protect their flocks from predators in Romania here.
Bear Watching in Romania
You can go bear watching in Romania, but sightings are far from guaranteed. We’ve lived in an area with bears and have never seen one, although somebody was mauled far up the mountain last year.
Lonely Planet gives information on brown bear watching opportunities in Romania.
Visiting the Libearty Bear Sanctuary, Near Brasov, Transylvania
The bear sanctuary is not far from Brasov, a must-visit town in Transylvania and not too far to drive from Bucharest.
Casual visits aren’t allowed, guests must join a group tour at 9, 10 or 11am, there are no further admissions after 11 to give the bears some peace. You need to contact the sanctuary to arrange a visit. Full details are at the end of the page.
All the bears have been rescued from hellish existences, tiny cages, bad food, social deprivation and being used as tourist attractions. Poor Max will break your heart. Taken from the wild as a cub he was kept chained to a fence outside Peles Castle, Transylvania, for his whole life. Tourists would come to take photos and his owner would torture and drug him to make him compliant. He is blind and crippled, too damaged to join the other bears in the huge communal enclosures. Read more of Max’s story here.
In the same month that we discovered the unthinkable truth of Thailand’s tiger farm at Kanchanaburi, can I remind the world not to support animal abuse in tourism. Even taking a paid photo supports this vile trade.
For you, for Pinterest, thanks for helping.
On arrival bears undergo rehabilitation and males are castrated, there will never be cubs born here. When they are ready the bears are released into massive natural enclosures on land loaned to the sanctuary. There are 86 bears in the sanctuary on the day we visited, along with 9 wolves, if you’re lucky you’ll catch a glimpse, we did. The wolves are much shyer than the bears and are also rescue animals.
Libearty Bear Sanctuary Contact
It’s worth knowing that Libearty takes bears internationally, one bear is from Texas USA, others from nearby countries outside Romania. 93 bears have been saved so far.
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel: +40 268 471 202 or +40 722 533 895
Website: Libearty Bear Sanctuary
You can support the bears by visiting, your admission fee helps keep the bears. Also by adopting or donating directly.
Thre is also a Bear Sanctuary book, available to buy online. It tells the full story of how and why the sanctuary began, along with beautiful images and the stories that go with the bears.Bear Sanctuary Book
Thanks for reading. If any Bear Sanctuary books are sold via my affiliate links here, I will give my small commission to the sanctuary. That’s a promise!