We visited this refuge during our recent trip to Croatia, where eight of the country’s less fortunate Eurasian Brown Bears reside, having been orphaned within their first year of life primarily due to hunting and road traffic collisions, or rescued from dilapidated zoos. Since 2002 it’s been run almost entirely by volunteers, who depend on donations to build enclosures and cover the daily maintenance of the site and the animal care costs. There are around 1000 living wild in the country, as part of the larger Dinaric population of 2800: the second largest in Central Europe.
Despite being in captivity, their surroundings are designed to be as naturalistic as possible, with substantial amounts of space to roam. However, it was disheartening to hear that no current plans exist for returning any to the wild, as they become too habituated to humans and associate them with food. While both legal and illegal bear hunting remains a problem, their numbers are steadily increasing again after many years of decline and stagnation throughout the 20th Century.