Animal Sanctuaries in Europe
Bear Sanctuary of Prishtina // Eternal Arrival
“It’s a sad truth that for years, bears in Eastern Europe and Russia have been forced into miserable lives of captivity, forced to either “dance” for tourists as circus animals or squeezed into tiny cages outside of restaurants as a roadside attraction.
Luckily, legislation is finally starting to catch up with ethics, and in many countries around Eastern Europe, there are now laws prohibiting the use of bears as tourist attractions.
However, what does that mean for the bears who spent their entire lives in captivity, who have no survival skills to make it in the wild, especially in an increasingly developed landscape where many of their natural habitats are disappearing?
Luckily, organizations such as Bear Sanctuary of Prishtina
, organized by Four Paws. Rescued bears now enjoy massive enclosures where they are able to roam in a far more natural environment, with plenty of green space.
When possible, bears are provided a mate they can play with given that they get along, allowing them a chance to re-learn socialization and have sorely needed playtime.
They have plenty of space to enjoy, plus swimming pools, high-quality food, and toys for enrichment. It is clear that they are well-cared for and enjoying a life of much more freedom than they had in the past.
Obviously, there is no interaction with the bears, but the bears enjoy walking alongside their human visitors from a distance of about 2-3 meters (plus a very strong looking fence!), so even though their enclosures are quite large it’s very easy to see the bears.
Unfortunately, because these bears now link humans with being fed, they are unable to safely live freely in the wild, so the Prishtina Bear Sanctuary does their best to create as natural of an atmosphere as possible for these bears rescued from lives of untold misery and boredom.
Monkey World // Kids and Compass
Monkey World is found in Dorset, in the southwest of England, and has been rescuing primates from all over the world for almost 30 years.
Monkey World works with governments around the world; conducting undercover research and saving primates from the illegal pet trade, laboratories and zoos where animals are mistreated. These primates have either been so badly treated or raised in captivity so that they aren’t able to be released into the wild.
Visiting Monkey World is a great day out for visitors of all ages. You can see chimps, orangutans, gibbons, woolly monkeys, macaques and more. There’s a lemur enclosure which you can walk through but you’re not allowed to touch the animals.
The chimps and orang-utans have large enclosures with outdoor and indoor areas, plenty of toys and bedding materials. You can peek into the indoor nest areas through glass walls to see how they build their nests. They’re encouraged to behave as naturally as possible in their environment.
The sanctuary relies on income from visits, public donations and “adoption” sponsorship of the animals to stay open and rescue more animals.
By visiting Monkey World you are helping not only the animals you see at the center but also saving others around the world.
Donkey Sanctuary // The Sweet Wanderlust
When I visited the Munster Vales region of Ireland last fall, I experienced amazing outdoor activities and beautiful scenery, but one of my trip highlights was a visit to The Donkey Sanctuary in County Cork.
Since its founding, The Donkey Sanctuary has rescued donkeys and mules who are abused, abandoned and neglected, offering loving care and individual attention.
Over the past 30 years, more than 5,000 donkeys have been provided a sanctuary for life.
If you’re in Ireland, you can visit the Sanctuary Monday – Friday from 9:00 am – 4:30 pm. Walk the paved path along the paddocks and give the donkeys a pat.
Admission and parking are free, but after meeting these beautiful creatures, I’m sure you’ll want to leave a donation or bring home a souvenir that supports the donkeys. (I purchased my Christmas cards there last year!)
Want to make a difference in an Irish donkey’s life? Read about the Sanctuary’s donkeys and choose one to adopt – €25 will make a huge difference in a donkey’s life!
Liberty Bear Sanctuary // Happiness Travels Here
Not far from the city of Brasov in Transylvania Romania, you will find the Liberty Bear Sanctuary
. A project of passion by Cristina Lapis, a Romanian.
She was so moved by the mistreatment of bears in Romania that she along with others started the campaign to outlaw the caged bear market in Romania.
In 1998 when the movement began it was common for caged bears to be kept as pets and serve as entertainment in hotels, restaurants and even gas stations.
The bears were kept in deplorable conditions, sometimes blinded and often drugged to keep them docile.
The Liberty Bear Sanctuary is now home to 70 rescued bears. The bears can run, climb, swim and socialize with each other in the 70-hectare park-like enclosure.
Visit the sanctuary
to hear how the bears have been rehabilitated back from a life of misery and see them enjoying new beginnings in the sanctuary
I spent an afternoon visiting the Agia Marinia Donkey Rescue on Crete while I was living in Greece, to get to know the organization better and spend time with the donkeys who call the rescue center home.
Donkey sanctuaries are important in Greece because it’s a country where donkeys are often mistreated for donkey rides in the hot sun on touristy islands such as Santorini. There were a few donkeys at the sanctuary whose back had given out and permanently stayed that way, because of being overloaded too many times.
The Agia Marina sanctuary rescues retired and injured donkeys who they’ve found in bad situations, and provides them with care, love, and a place to call home and live out their days.
To get to the sanctuary
, you’ll need a car as it’s in a fairly rural part of southern Crete. The sanctuary
has drop-in hours, usually during feeding times, where you can simply show up and get to the know the individual donkeys at your leisure. To find the most up-to-date visiting hours, go to their website here
You can even participate in their ‘adopt a donkey’ program if you want to financially support one donkey in particular. It’s a great sanctuary to visit if you want to learn more about these intelligent animals and to understand why donkey riding is never a good activity to support in Greece.
The Dancing Bears Sanctuary // ASocialNomad
The Dancing Bears Park near Belitsa, Bulgaria is a rehabilitation home for ex-dancing bears. Located less than an hour away from Bulgaria’s main ski resort, Bansko, the home is in the Rila mountains and houses 25 brown bears.
As the park is in the wilderness, the nearest bus and train stops are 12 kilometers away, so you’ll either need to self-drive or take a tour from Bansko (there are plenty of services available at competitive prices).
You can wander around the park (all the bears are in large wild area enclosures for their and your protection) by yourself, or, we recommend taking the guided tour. The price, of 6 leva (3 euros) per person is the same.
Taking a tour will help you understand the history and the stories of the bears that you’ll see. There’s also a video in the visitor center that will fully immerse you in the plights of mistreated bears.
This bear sanctuary is in a magnificent location with superb facilities for the bears. It is a place you’ll want to return to and follow the lives of the bears who live here. The staff are extremely accommodating to visitors and will help those with mobility problems.
El Refugio del Burrito Donkey Sanctuary // The Travel Rebellion
Sometimes it can feel impossible to escape animal abuse in Spain. Seeing bullfighting arenas and horse carts everywhere was heartbreaking but expected. But I wasn’t expecting the Mijas donkey carts.
Around 100 donkeys, heavily decorated in the sweltering heat. Tied up so tightly they couldn’t shake the flies off their faces. No running, playing or socializing. No simple pleasures like rolling around or scratching their nose on their knee.
El Refugio del Burrito
was a different story. Their rescues are given love, freedom, and companions to bond with. And it completely transformed them!
All the cart horses and donkeys I’d met were so broken-spirited and wary of humans. But the El Refugio donkeys were playful, chilled out and loved a good fussing. No matter how many cruel attractions a country has, you can always find kind alternatives.
El Refugio del Burrito is a 40-minute drive to the north of Malaga, near the wild Flamingo Lake. There’s a €2 entry donation and you can adopt a donkey for €5 a month.