Trio of cute cubs at the Bear Orphan Station in Harghita
FOUR PAWS will again support the Bear Orphan Station in Harghita, Romania in 2013. The station offers a secure shelter for orphan bears and prepares them for life in the wilderness. This spring, three more little bears were brought to the untouched, well hidden area in north-eastern Romania. There, with the help of the international welfare organisation, the cubs will be raised without human influence to be released into the wild at a later stage. So far nearly sixty bears have already been integrated into this special conservation project.
Little Boogster faced a grim future last winter: In the region of Transylvania, where the brown bear had been born at the end of last year, the Forestry Department organised a big wild boar hunt. One of the hunters suddenly spotted something running in the forest; a bear. Taking a closer look,, the bear seemed to be carrying a little cub in her mouth. She was struggling for her life, having been disturbed from the den by the hunters. The hunter recalls that suddenly she dropped the cub from her mouth. She came back to grab the cub and ran away, but she lost him again and when hunting dogs approached she fled and did not return. A local man took the cub home first and eventually transferred him to the bear orphanage in Harghita.
FOUR PAWS started this special bear conservation project in 2004. In an area of several hectares of land, the cubs grow up in enclosures in untouched surroundings, without human contact. A ‘three steps’ program prepares them for an independent life in the wild. At first the bear cubs stay in quarantine for several weeks and are under medical surveillance. In the second phase, they are released into a much bigger enclosure where they can climb, dig, look for food and play around with other bears. In the third phase, they receive special, individual training from a wildlife expert, based on natural bear species behavior. The release into the wild depends on the individual development of each bear, mostly around the age of two. Before leaving the orphanage, the young bears are equipped with GPS collars, which allow the team to monitor their movements. “An area with no humans is most likely to lead to a successful release into the wild. Therefore, no visitors are allowed at the station”, says Leonardo Bereczky, manager of the bear orphanage station.
This February, a pair of siblings were also separated from their mothers in the Călimani mountains. When a forestry company started exploiting timber, cutting the trees and towing the timber through the bushes, they destroyed a winter den of a female bear. The mother had to run away, but the cubs were too small to be carried. The workers found them nearly frozen and took them home. A local wildlife manager took the cubs in, and tried to bring them back after several days, hoping that the mother would come and find them. But due to the large amount of time that had passed, she never came back. When the hunter heard about the orphanage project, he acted quickly and the bears were transferred to Harghita, too.
The two young bears have now got used to their new home. Together with Boogster, they love to explore the area and spend most of their time playing.
There are about 5,000 bears thought to be living in the forests of Carpathia and Transylvania; this is the second biggest bear population in Europa after Russia. But the population of brown bears in Romania is threatened daily by poachers and by the damage done to the brown bears' habitat. Human interference, either by way of poachers or land developers, has either killed or removed many bears, often adults, from the forest. Bear cubs need their mothers in order to survive, and often become orphans due to human actions, rather than natural causes. Every year in Romania, three to ten bear cubs are found.