In a new book entitled “Bear Sanctuary“, my colleague Victor Watkins of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), examines the plight of of the world’s eight species of bears. From a conservation perspective six of the eight species are greatly imperiled and subspecies or certain populations of the remainder are also in much trouble. But Victor, an animal welfarist, and a pioneer in the field of bear rescue and captive rehabilitation is not only concerned with bears at the population level, but at their well-being as individual animals.
All species of bears can be found in captive conditions. Some are subjected to cruelty or exploitation in some circuses and roadside zoos and kept in deplorable conditions. Bile farmed bears and some other captive bears are housed in cages too small to permit much movement at all. Geriatric individuals and others in poor health certainly can’t be reintroduced to the wild for obvious reasons; most bears are poor candidates for reintroduction in the first place.
Fortunately one method of rescue–the placement of bears in large sanctuaries–has offered hundreds of individuals a chance to live a quality of life in large, forested enclosures with natural flora and diverse substrates, not to mention the choice to engage with other bears. In these “retirement homes” the bears are provided with adequate veterinary care and often enrichment to enhance their psychological well-being.
The book shares a compelling story of “how and why an oak forest in the heart of Romania became transformed into a retirement home for rescued bears.” The website for the book serves as an excellent reference for learning information about sanctuaries for bears around the world and like the book, it includes beautiful photographs of these expansive, natural enclosures that have given such beautiful animals a quality life they deserve.