One of the residents at the Romanian bear sanctuary

10 years, 87 bears: Stories from our Romanian bear sanctuary



People often try to tell us it’s impossible to save wild animals from poaching, wildlife entertainment and trade. That’s when I draw strength from the work we do to protect bears.

In the past ten years, we’ve rescued 87 bears from heart-breaking treatment where they were forced to entertain people at restaurants, or kept in tiny, barren cages.

We partnered with Asociatia Milioane de Prieteni (AMP) in 2005 to build Europe’s largest bear sanctuary. It has incredibly high welfare standards and all the rescued bears are free to socialise and express natural behaviours.

The sanctuary is having a significantly large impact on bear abuse in Romania.

We’ve made a massive difference for bears like Graeme

Snatched from the wild as a cub over twenty years ago, Graeme grew up in a tiny cage entertaining a mining company’s clients until he was given up to a zoo, where he just paced in small circles in his tiny cage. He had to battle with the other trapped bears over meagre scraps of food.


Graeme relaxes at the sanctuary before his first hibernation

This perpetual lack of food meant Graeme was never able to stock up enough to do what should come naturally to bears – to hibernate for the winter. Now he’s living at the sanctuary, Graeme can eat as much as he likes. It’s wonderful to know he is now able to enjoy his first ever hibernation.

Terra and Pluto are enjoying their new home

Terra and her cub Pluto were rescued soon after I started working at World Animal Protection so I will always remember them. In July last year Terra and her cub Pluto were rescued from a badly-run zoo. It took a year of campaigning from Asociatia Milioane de Prieteni (AMP), but finally the two were released. They now live happy lives far from the suffering they endured in small, rusty cages at the zoo.


Terra and Pluto together in the sanctuary

Their current enclosure is complete with a large den, a deep pool, tall trees and dense thickets. They’ll stay here until 2016 when Pluto turns two. At this age, wild bears separate from their mothers, so Terra and Pluto will be moved into another enclosure where they will have the chance to meet other bears and learn to live together with them.

What’s next for the sanctuary and bears?

I’m proud of the work of the team and the number of bears we’ve rescued with our partner in Romania, but whilst there are still bears suffering in the region we won’t let up on our rescue work. We’ll provide a sanctuary and the best possible care for all the bears like Graeme, Terra and Pluto that we rescue.

There are thousands more bears in Asia that are suffering, largely at the hands of the bear bile industry that is used in traditional medicine. We’re making great progress towards ending this trade in Vietnam and South Korea, but we face a bigger challenge in China. We only need to think about the impact we’ve made on Graeme, Terra and Pluto’s lives to inspire us to make more impact for thousands more bears and wild animals.

I’d really like to say a huge thanks to everyone who has funded the rescue and sanctuary of all these bears in Romania – it’s impossible to overstate the difference that you’ve made to their lives.

Find out more information about the work my team and I do for bears and other wild animals.

More About