The world's biggest bear sanctuary was funded at Zărneşti, near Braşov, by Christina Lapiş, Director of the Romanian Society 'Millions of Friends', and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).
The construction began in 2006 and ended in 2007; the sanctuary is a natural heaven for the rescued bears and has 70 ha of forest close to the Carpathian Mountains, with a temporary quarantine facility, fresh water pools, two main large bear enclosures, a large main building with veterinary area and an electric fence.
Romania has the largest population of wild European brown bears – over 4,000 live in the forests (approx. 50% of the Europe's population of bears). Some of them are taken from the wild and kept in tiny cages often as an attraction to lure diners into restaurants or customers into hotels, others end up in primitive private zoos or as circus performers. Many of the captive bears are underfed by their owners, who rely on the generosity of customers to provide food, and as a result the bears have a poor diet, consisting of mainly bread and corn. Often they do not even get enough water to drink. They are kept in squalid conditions or in cramped cages where they have little protection from the bitter cold of the Romanian winters.
In Romania, Christina Lapiş is now one of the most well-established and recognisable figures working on animal welfare issues. Known by the media, government and public alike, whenever there is an animal welfare issue in the Romanian news, she is the authority that the media go to for answers. The campaigner Christina Lapiş has vowed to free every captive bear in the country. For now, the sanctuary hosts near 40 bears and can handle 100. The sanctuary is open for the public in the weekends and can be visited in organized groups.
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