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Bears nestled among the tree branches

With this photo, I aimed to capture the essence of the Liberty Bear Sanctuary in Zarnesti, Romania, one of the world’s largest sanctuaries for brown bears. Over 100 brown bears find solace here after enduring the harsh realities of captivity. A visit to the sanctuary is a rollercoaster of emotions- from profound inspiration as people have dedicated their lives to the protection of the bears and have promised to never turn a blind eye to their suffering, and instead, stand united in advocating for their well-being, -to sadness and finally, exhilaration. A story that touched the hearts of many is the story of Max, who unfortunately died last year. He was chained by its owner near Peles Castle in Sinaia, and suffered unspeakable cruelty, robbed of his sight and mutilated for the sake of human entertainment. Yet, in his time at Liberty, one can only hope he found solace in the kindness of caregivers and newfound empathy of visitors. The question arises: why not release these bears back into the wild? The answer lies in their captivity-induced dependence on human care. The mission of Liberty is clear: to provide these bears with the care, medical attention, and dignity they deserve for the remainder of their days. Each visit to this sanctuary serves as a reminder of our collective responsibility to protect and cherish all creatures, great and small.

Daria Antonescu