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Back in 1998 a local Romanian lady Cristina Lapis who had set up a dog shelter to help with the problem of stray dogs on the streets was alerted to three adult brown bears being kept in small rusty cages behind a ski resort above Poiana, Brasov in Romania.
These bears were being kept in awful conditions with no shelter from the heat of summer or protection from the long, bitter winter months. Cristina vowed from that day that she would help the captive bears of Romania and began the long fight to set up a sanctuary.
The Libearty Bear Sanctuary was finally opened by Cristina Lapis's Millions of Friends organisation and the World Society for the Protection of Animals in early 2005. Over the years the sanctuary has been expanded and now it covers 69 hectares of oak and hazel forest for the bears to roam freely in and pools for them to bathe in.
Libearty sanctuary is now the largest in Europe and currently has over 100 bears in their care. Some of the sanctuary's rescue missions have covered many miles and across the world even reaching as far as Texas. The cost of the transportation for each bear can be very high as well as the bears often needing medical attention on arrival. Most of these bears were found suffering in small cramped cages and were being used as pets or as attractions outside restaurants and gasoline stations. The bears were caught when they were only cubs, given a poor diet and little or no veterinary care.
To run the sanctuary including the maintenance, feeding and medical needs of the bears costs thousands of pounds a month . The bears need 2 tonnes of quality food every day including a mixture of vegetables, fruit, eggs, meat and honey.
The sanctuary is open to a limited number of visitors a day conducted by a tour guide who tells some of the tragic past stories of the bears lives. By creating better awareness of the ethical treatment and issues affecting bears, through tours as well as educating school children, the sanctuary hopes to succeed in eradicating this kind of cruelty forever.