I’m a bit obsessed with bears and wolves. One of the reasons I’m spellbound by deer is that the idea of something so big wandering around wild in the woods is just so exciting. They’re so big! And they’re owned by no one! So obviously being in places where there are wolves or bears, which are way more exotic and wild and potentially dangerous, is pretty mind-blowing for me. The chances of us actually seeing a bear in the wild though are thankfully fairly slim, so we opted for the next best thing and went to the bear sanctuary in Kuterevo.
The Kuterevo bear sanctuary was set up in 2002 by Ivan Crnkovic-Pavenka to give a home to orphaned bears that otherwise wouldn’t have survived in the wild. It has since grown to accommodate four large enclosures and supports a permanent community of international volunteers. The site provides trees, pools and caves for the bears to live a life as close to wild as they’ll ever know and simultaneously a sense of community and purpose for the legions of young people that come here looking for a way to make a difference in the world.
The volunteers and the bears are inseparable, the community of Kuterevo and the bears are inseparable. They all co-exist as essential parts in this inspiring little example of what happens when a good thing grows.
We, unsurprisingly, were smitten. It’s impossible to be so close to such huge and magnetic beasts without feeling like something otherworldly is taking place. Their paws, their claws, their deep deep fur that looks like it would be so good to hold, their height when they stand up, their playfulness in the water, the way they come close and look into your eyes as if they either want to play with or eat you; its all completely wonderful.
We spent a long long time watching them and we spent a long time just hanging around, feeling out the atmosphere of the place, letting the goodness soak in. If I’d have come here before having children, I’m not sure I’d have ever left.
As it was we left reluctantly, leaving messages of love and support in their book and donations in their bucket. This is a place of connection; connection with nature, with the wild, and between people. I only hope that the volunteers and the visitors that come here can take the message of togetherness and care and export it to other projects in other parts of the world, wherever there are creatures and eco-systems that need the stewardship and advocacy of humans.
*If you want to know more about the Kuterevo Bear Sanctuary, this blog by the volunteers is great*