The Carpathian Mountains, stretching in a wide arc through Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Ukraine, Romania and Serbia, are one of the last bastions for large predators in Europe. This vast upland wilderness hides the continent’s largest populations of wolves, lynx and bears. In Romania, it is the latter which take centre stage.
And yet while Romania’s bears might appear to be a conservation success story – numbers here are increasing due to government legislation making it illegal to kill them – the challenges of human-bear conflict, vocal opposition to the hunting laws and traditional attitudes (bears have historically been used as entertainment) mean these are still some of the most vulnerable populations on the continent.
Bear conservation projects are focussed on rescue sanctuaries like this one
, just outside Brasov, which not only takes in bears that have been rescued from abuse and the entertainment industry, but also works to increase local understanding and knowledge of bears to help change attitudes and make Romania’s rural farmers more receptive to sharing their land.
Don’t expect hands-on interaction – the sanctuary aims to keep its bears as wild as possible, offering as natural a life as possible in large woodland enclosures. You’ll be responsible for feeding and creating enrichment materials, as well as helping with tours and ongoing educational projects.