“Dancing” Bears Park


“Dancing” Bears Park

When someone takes an interest in another person's situation when they shouldn't, the expression 'mind your own business"  is common. The way this is said in Bulgarian literally translates to 'What are you staring at? Is it a dancing bear?'.

The origin of this expression is closely linked to the story of the Dancing Bear Park!

In the past, bears were used as small-scale circus attractions. A musician would play music and the bear would 'dance'. The ugly truth behind this performance was nothing short of cruel torture. Fortunately, this way of treating bears was declared 'illegal' in 1998. Since the year 2000, an organization called 'Four Paws', in collaboration with the French Brigitte Bardot Foundation, is tackling the problem. It was decided that rescued bears would be housed in a forest near Belitsa, a small town in southwestern Bulgaria, 170 km south of the capital Sofia and about 35 km from the ski resort of Bansko.

The park is now a refuge and rest home for the ex-dancing bears. It is located on 120,000 square metres of forest in the Rila Mountains, at an altitude of 1,345m. There is an information and medical centre on-site. The area is fenced, and the area that is the natural habitat of the bears is surrounded by a 3 km fence. Feeding is also set up to mimic their natural habitat, with staff hiding food on-site so the bears can train their natural instincts. All bears have names, so when you visit this park you will meet Monti, Violeta, Gabriela, and many more beautiful brown bears.

There is a lot involved in caring for the bears - they are fed three times a day, dens are made for bears that are unable to build their own, the basins are cleaned, medical care is provided and much more.

In the past, the bears would have been chained up in confined spaces for up to 24 hours a day, and fed sugar and alcohol to enhance their 'performance'. They were physically abused in extreme ways, which makes the park seem like a bear paradise in comparison. Many bears suffered facial injuries from sugar intake, and in winter they were kept awake, causing them to forget how to hibernate. Fortunately, the bears are now able to follow their biological clocks and are slowly returning to their peaceful winter dreams.

The park offers visitors a rare glimpse of rescued bears in their natural habitat of lush green forests—something you won't get in a typical zoo. It is a lot of maintenance, but well worth the time and effort.



“Dancing” Bears Park

“Dancing” Bears Park

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