Orphaned bear cubs learn to survive in Romania
Thus they don't lose their natural instincts and can later return to the wild.
Europe's Centre for the Rehabilitation of Orphan Bears was created 11 years ago by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Romania's Transylvania province of Harghita.
Since then, 70 brown bear cubs have not just survived, but have been returned to their natural habitat without having been "contaminated" due to human contact.
Achieving such results has not been easy. There have been a number of failures along the way.
"Panda" was one of them. He was one of the first cubs received by the centre but for him it was too late - he had already spent too much time scavenging a city's garbage for food to learn how to fend for himself in the mountains.
He is now one of the only adults in the sanctuary and acts as a kind of tutor for the cubs.
To avoid that kind of "contamination" and so that the bears grow up without any contact with humans, the rehabilitation centre is located in a remote mountainous area within an reserve of 20 hectares (49 acres) where no visitors are allowed.
Isolation is so important for their successful return to nature that not even guided visits to the centre are allowed, said Leonardo Bereczky, coordinator of the centre.
With some 6,000 specimens, Romania's bear population makes up a third of all the bears in Europe and is the second largest on the continent after Russia.
Since 1989, deforestation and poaching have reduced Romania's bear population by some 3,000 specimens.
"The loss of ecological corridors and the greater number of people spending time in the woods have shrunk their numbers," said Magor Csibi, WWF Romania' director.
Thirteen new cubs aged between three and four months have been brought into the programme recently, while 10 bears that spent all winter in the centre will soon be set free.
(Posted on 19-08-2014)