Usually, when people hear about dancing bears, they think of abused, unhappy animals, forced to entertain people for the financial benefit of their owners. Not in this case. The Dancing Bears Park in Belitsa, Bulgaria, is the only one establishment of its kind. It is a home of rescued dancing bears and has been working for 16 years now.
In 2008, Bulgaria introduced a law protecting the brown bear and included it in the Red Data Book of the protected species of Bulgaria. Years before that, in 2000, two foundations begin to work on a project that would fight a long-established tradition. In the country, for centuries, monkeys and bears were used by Roma people (who are known to have a nomadic lifestyle) to make a living using the “skills” of their trained pets.
This cruel tradition has its hidden stories of despair. The bears were separated from their mothers (who often were killed after that) and trained to “dance”. Their canine teeth were broken or removed. Their claws were trimmed often so that they cannot fight. But the worst of all was the process of placing a ring in their nose – the most sensitive part of their entire body. In this way, the young (3-6 months) bears and later the grown bears were easily controlled.
Thanks to the work of Four Paws Organization and the foundation of Brigitte Bardot in the Dancing Bears Park in Belitsa, this practice in Bulgaria had seen an end. But unfortunately, it continues in Albania and Russia.
The Dancing Bears Park is the largest conservation center for a protection of brown bears in Europe and gives shelter to 27 dancing bears. All the bears have unique stories and beautiful names. For example – Violeta is the oldest bear in the park. She is 35 years old, her nose looks like a torn rag (she was not very obedient and the ring in her nose attached by a chain to her owner damaged it several times). Now she wanders happily in the park under the shadow of the old trees and loves to be photographed!
The park is a retirement home for these bears. Here they can live in a peaceful environment, under the attentive care of the park’s staff. Medical teams make annual check-ups; the bears are fed three times per day with a nutritious food. They practically live in nature without being left to survive alone as they cannot do this for themselves. All their lives they have spent in captivity and they lost most of their survival instincts. That’s why for some of the bears the park’s personnel make artificial dens for their hibernation.
The park is open to visitors. Often, families with young children visit the place as it is the only place where they can observe the life of the brown bears in a relatively natural environment. Here you will hear from the guides (tours are organized every 30 minutes) about the project, about the important role of the two foundations that finance it. You will know more about the personal stories of the bears and all your questions will be answered.
The place where the park is situated is beautiful by itself. The management couldn’t choose a better place for a home of these suffered animals. Rila Mountains is the highest mountain in Bulgaria, with deep forests and unique flora and fauna.
We can only hope that there will be more good stories like this one. Cruel traditions that involve abuse of animals should be ended and more people to know about these practices in order to stop taking part to such entertainments. We can’t continue to be indifferent and in the same time to live in nature as rich and beautiful as it is now. We have to be responsible, and this responsibility starts with every one of us.
Don’t take part in activities that torture animals! Instead, go to places like the Dancing Bears Park in Belitsa, Bulgaria.
You can learn more about how to visit the park here.
Rebel Guest Post
Geri has started to explore the world many years ago as an expat in Ethiopia.
Since then she had lived in different countries and now she is sharing her travel and expat experience with her female readers on When Woman Travels blog. A place for female travel trip ideas and tips to help women be stylish and travel more.