As the harsh winter weather closes in on the Romanian countryside, two old bears desperately in need of a new home have been rescued by WSPA local partner Asociatia Milioane de Prieteni (AMP) and taken to the WSPA funded bear sanctuary.
The two bears, named Prince Charles (40 years old) and Winnie (previously known as Misha, 20 years), had been cared for by a volunteer wildlife rescue group called Project Ursus who inherited the bears when they took over an old zoo for use as a rehabilitation facility.
Both bears are now safe at the sanctuary, receiving the royal treatment for bears, and will spend the rest of their lives in the natural forested enclosures...
Plea for help from volunteers
After hearing about the WSPA funded sanctuary, Project Ursus approached WSPA and AMP for help in September, concerned that Charles would not survive another winter in the rusty zoo enclosures. We immediately arranged to visit the old zoo and it was clear that Charles was a priority for rescue.
At 40 years old Charles is a very advanced age for a bear (bears have a life expectancy in the wild of around 15-20 years) and he appeared to be deaf, losing his sight and have arthritis in one of his hind legs. Winnie in comparison was still an active and strong bear but looked bored and continually paced and rocked in his small concrete cage.
While the volunteers worked hard to keep the bears in good health they did not have the time, funds or experience to care for them properly. The cages at the zoo were concrete floored with rusting metal bars and the shelter was small and sparse. These barren cages were no home for such large, intelligent animals.
Risky rescue for old bear
“Time was of the essence in this case,” explained WSPA Wildlife Advisor Victor Watkins. “It was clear Prince Charles wouldn’t survive another winter in the old zoo, but tranquilizing and transporting a bear of such an advanced age brings many risks.”
“We also had no idea how he would cope in a forest enclosure after a life of captivity but the sanctuary offers him the best chance of survival and safety so we had to move to save him.”
AMP decided that Winnie would be taken first and a transport cage was positioned against the rusting zoo cages. Using honey, beef, apples and sunflower seeds they attempted to lure him into the cage but, even with the calling of the Project Ursus staff, Winnie remained too nervous to enter the cage and the AMP vet had to tranquilise him before transportation.
The following day we returned to transport Charles and again, after hours of tempting him with tasty morsels of food, he too had to be tranquilised before AMP could take him to the sanctuary. After a long, anxious drive over the winding hills, with continuous monitoring of Charles, both bears received full health checks by the AMP vet before being placed carefully into their enclosures.
Old but happy bears at sanctuary
Aside from some teeth problems and a little arthritis, Winnie was found to be in relatively good health and was released into the training area, where he quickly adapted to his new home and freedom.
Charles, however, was found to be in very poor health. At 40 years old he has already well outlived his life expectancy and the vet confirmed that he is going deaf and blind, has arthritis, as well as suffering from heart, lung, digestion and teeth problems. After his health check, Charles was moved to an individual forest enclosure, right next door to blind bear Max, and despite all of his health problems, seemed to relish his new home.
Most bears take some time to adjust to the forest after a life of captivity but not Charles. He immediately headed for the pool and happily played and splashed in water for the first time in his life, before exploring his new enclosure and then taking another nap in his den.