Nearly one hundred Eurasian brown bears call Romania’s Libearty Bear Sanctuary home.
Located seven kilometres east of Zarnesti in Transylvania’s Carpathian Mountains, the 69-hectare property opens its gates to tourists each morning, a little after feeding time, when the animals are at their most lively and photogenic.
There’s Max, a giant brown bear, almost black, who’s gone blind from all the salt water his owner used to inject into his eyes to disorient and confuse him, allowing tourists to get their pictures taken without having to worry about being mauled or bitten.
There’s Monica, who spent 15 years in a Bucharest zoo, and Martinica, who spent the first 10 years of his life caged outside a monastery. There’s Mario and Marko from Albania, Misha from Georgia, even Betsy from Texas, who worked in a circus, lived nine years in a chicken coop and developed serious stomach issues after being fed nothing but fast food.
The majority of the sanctuary’s bears are rescue animals. But other more recent arrivals—such as Epison and her two cubs, who have only been here three months—are wild animals with no history of abuse. They’re only here because they found a restaurant and started to hang out around the garbage bins.