Help bring bears back to the wilderness where they belong
Bears have long captured the imagination of animal lovers the world over. Falling in love with the likes of Winnie the Pooh and Paddington Bear at a young age often means a life long appreciation for bears of all shapes and sizes; it often comes as a surprise then that these adored creatures are mistreated, hunted and imprisoned in countries across the world.
Bears have had a tough time of it in Romania. For years they have been hunted as trophies, forced to dance in the streets for strangers, made to cycle around circuses and beg outside hotels. Kept in cramped conditions and regularly abused by their owners, these bears are now being rescued and brought to Eastern Europe's largest bear sanctuary, just outside Brasov.
The sanctuary was opened in 2006, and Oyster volunteers have been part of these rescued bears' recoveries ever since. The sanctuary is now home to 72 bears, providing them with a green and peaceful haven in which to live, in a setting as close to the wild as possible.
Working closely with the full time members of the sanctuary staff, volunteers become part of this ongoing rescue story to bring more bears to safety. Each day you will be out and about around the sanctuary, helping to prepare food, feeding and monitoring the bears, assisting with sanctuary tours and conservation. No day is the same- but the one thing that you can be sure of is the bears!
What will I be doing?
The sanctuary is located in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, just outside the medieval city of Brasov. These mountain ranges are are one of Europe’s last really wild places, providing a home to both brown bears and wolves. The sanctuary enjoys stunning views out over the mountains, its wooded hills providing the perfect haven for these rescued bears.
Your day at the sanctuary starts with wandering through the woodlands past the large and wild enclosures that have become these bears' homes. This is the perfect opportunity to see the bears playing, climbing trees, swimming and even having a good back scratch against the trees. Arriving at the main sanctuary building you are given your tasks as and when they arise. You should expect to be outdoors and getting pretty stuck in to the sanctuary life!
Typical tasks at the sanctuary inclide:
- Food preparation- the bears need to eat up to 10kg per day to stay healthy- that's a lot of food!
- Feeding the bears- a real highlight is to see the bears coming out of the undergrowth to get the best bits!
- Monitoring- it is important to keep an eye on how the newest bears are coping, and how quickly they are adapting to their new surroundings
- Sanctuary tours- there are various educational groups that visit the sanctuary, and input from the volunteers really helps to educate them about animal welfare
The great thing about this project is that it really gets you close to the bears in a natural environment, in a way that is positive for the bears. Getting involved in the running of the sanctuary really opens your eyes to the wider implications of animal welfare, and of the importance of making sure that people understand its importance.
‘[The placement] was 'more than I could ever have hoped - to have so much fun, to meet such amazing people and live in such a wonderful place. And obviously I adored the bears!' (Emily Barclay, 2008)
There are two airports in Bucharest, and you are more than welcome to arrive at either of them. You will be collected from your flight and driven through the beautiful scenery to Brasov, approximately 2 - 3 hours drive from Bucharest. Once there Razvan will help you to settle you into your flat, before giving you a thorough orientation.
Alternatively, you are more than welcome to arrive to Brasov by train. This is a long but thoroughly worthwhile journey, taking you through some fantastic landscapes.
A perfect English speaker and probably the most dynamic person you will ever meet, Razvan has run our Romania programmes since 2003. A veteran rep - he has dealt with over 200 volunteers so far - he always goes way beyond his Oyster job description, organising wonderful trips (to Dracula’s castle and the Black Sea among others) for participants. He is personally involved in the fundraising and awareness building of the bear sanctuary, even getting dressed up as a bear on one occasion!
It doesn’t matter if you’re a short or long-term volunteer, you still get full support from Razvan, who aims to ensure that you have a happy and productive time in Romania.
You will be based in Brasov, living in a comfortable, central flat that Oyster rents for you and your fellow volunteers. You should expect to share a room with at least one other volunteer. The flat is set at the foot of the towering Mount Tampa and is just a few minutes walk to the centre of the town and all amenities.
The flat provides a comfortable home for you during your stay in Brasov. There is wifi available for use, as well as televisions and books at your disposal. The fully equipped kitchen means that you can cook with fellow volunteers or treat yourself to dinner out in the evening.
We believe that living in relative comfort is important and should help you unwind when you are working hard in the fresh air all day.
Cost and what is provided
Volunteers from 2 - 12 weeks
2 weeks from October to March: £1145
2 weeks from April to September: £1345
Extra weeks £175 per week.
What is Provided?
EU VAT at 17.5% on UK cost elements
- Phone or face-to-face interview and informal briefing
- Placement information covering work issues and placement advice
- Help and advice from our UK office before and after departure
- Transportation to your accommodation from the airport.
- Comfortable central accommodation with all bills included
- Assistance and support from our representative whilst on your placement including regular social ‘meet ups’
- Daily return transport to the sanctuary
- Thorough orientation and basic Romanian language guide
- Donation to project and contribution to Oyster's adopted bear, Max
- Excludes food (approx. £3.00 per day)
- A book about the sanctuary, its history and of course the bears
- Two weekend day trips are arranged by Razvan (transport costs covered only):
- Trip 1: Dracula's Castle and Rasnov Hill Fortress followed by dinner in the mountains
- Trip 2: Sinaia town and Peles Castle
- Free access to InterHealth's Travel Health Advice Service
- Free myTsafe secure document storage account - worth £39!
What do I need?
- A passport valid for 6 months after your planned return
- Insurance (we can recommend a specific policy)
- Flights to Bucharest. We can help you organise these.
- Cost of changing your return flight date if you need to
- All home country travel costs
- Independent travel costs whilst in Romania and on the organised trips
- Provide your own lunch, water and hot drink (in a flask) at the sanctuary
- Cost of food and going out (£25-£50 per week dependent on lifestyle)
- Return transport to the airport- approximately £12 by bus
And one more thing...
People often think that Romania's bears are quite small. This is certainly not the case. A male bear, standing on its hind legs can be 2.80 metres tall!