"Libearty" – One of the largest animal welfare projects in Europe
The European brown bear is a strictly protected species under The Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (the Berne Convention). Romania ratified the Berne Convention in 1993, but only in 2005 the ownership of the bears taken from the wild was made illegal in Romania. In the same year, The “Millions of Friends“ Association signed a public-private partnership with the City Hall of Zarnesti, through wich we were offered the concession of the necessary land, for 49 years, to build the “Libearty“ sanctuary. The World Animal Protection (formerly known as World Society for the Protection of Animals) joined the Millions of Friends Association efforts in the largest project to rescue and care for brown bears in Romania, "Saving captive bears”.
105 bears have been rescued since the "Libearty" Sanctuary was open. All the bears had lived a nightmare, full of abuse, in tiny cages in comparison with their needs. They were prisoners in cages with rusted bars, with cement under foot instead of earth and grass. Before they came to us, some of them never knew how to climb a tree, how to hide in the forest from the sun on hot days, or how to enjoy few minutes in deep enough water for splashing and cooling off.
Many were caged on the terraces in front of restaurants, hotels, guesthouses, lodges and gas stations, as tourist attractions. There were also cases of "overwhelming love" of some people who, instead of letting the bears live in their natural forest environment, they preferred to keep them behind bars as pets in factories, monasteries or mini-zoos arranged in their own households.
Also, many bears came to the Zarnesti Sanctuary after Romania joined the European Union in 2007. European legislation that Romania adopted has led to the closure of several Romanian zoos which did not provide decent minimum conditions for animals in their care.
Libearty is the largest Sanctuary of brown bears in the world. It has 69 hectares of oak forest – a concession given for 49 years by the City Hall of Zarnesti, which became a partner in this project.
The Sanctuary also boasts the rescue of four bears taken from miserable conditions in other countries. Bears Maria and Marko were brought from Albania, Misha came from Georgia and Betsy is a bear rescued from Texas, USA who came to us through the intervention of the Houston SPCA (USA). The most recent tenants from abroad are Masha and Grisha, saved from a private zoo, in Gyumri (Armenia).
You can read the stories of the bears in the Libearty sanctuary in the "Adopt a Bear" page.
You can also buy the book called Bear Sanctuary which tells the story of how the Libearty sanctuary was created, illustrated with photos of the rescued bears. And details of the rescues. The book is available from Amazon at: http://amzn.to/pWBWaQ