Bear cubs find refuge in Croatia
May 25 2004 at 08:12AM
By Lajla Veselica
Kuterevo - Mara-Buna is a four-month-old orphan whose mother was killed in February, but the helpless cub's life was saved as she found refuge in a unique shelter for brown bears in an idyllic mountain environment in central Croatia."The baby bear was brought here together with her brother after the hunters had killed their mother," Ivan
Crnkovic-Pavenka who runs the shelter said, while the cub is playfully running around him in a meadow.Only her ears, covered with still downy fur, are protruding above the grass, as she plays tag with a dog. Like a real kid, only a minute later, Mara-Buna changes her mind and tries to climb a tree, but flops over. She was mourning her brother, inconsolably whining for days'
Mara-Buna's brother died from an intestinal disease three weeks ago, so she had to be quarantined in a barn. "She was mourning her brother, inconsolably whining for days, so I let her play with my dog and they became best friends," Crnkovic-Pavenka explains.
By the end of August, Mara-Buna will hopefully leave the barn to make her debut in front of the visitors. She will then join the other four orphan bears who during the past two years have found their new home in the picturesque village, about 180km south-west of Zagreb, in the foothills of the Velebit mountain range. The northern Velebit is a national park. The idea to create a shelter for brown bear cubs was launched in 2001 and its first resident - male Mrnjo-Brundo - was brought a year later.
The cub was found by children in a rain-swollen river that had most probably left it separated from the rest of the litter. "When Mrnjo-Brundo arrived I took it to every single house in the village and his charm has disarmed all opponents of the shelter," Crnkovic-Pavenka says.
The four bears live in two open-air areas of about 8 000 square metres each where they have an improvised den, a hollow tree trunk to hide in and a wooden tub for a bath. The areas are encircled with an electric fence preventing the animals from climbing out.
These bears have no chance of surviving out in the wild since they are no longer capable of recognising human hostility. Bears attack humans only if they feel endangered, Crnkovic-Pavenka said.
Although brown bears were originally true carnivores, nowadays almost 90 percent of their diet is vegetation and the rest consists are small mammals, insects and fish.
All the Kuterevo bears - males Mrnjo-Brundo, Ljubo-Lik and Zdravi-Gor as well as two females Janja-Zora and Mara-Buna - have two names. The first is the person who found them and the second refers to area where they were found.
In Croatia, unlike in many other parts of Europe, the brown bears (Ursus arctos) have managed to survive habitat loss and persecution by humans.
They are present notably in the central forested parts of Gorski Kotar and Lika and are protected by a hunting closed season. Official estimates put their number at 600 to 1 000.
Crnkovic-Pavenka would like to see the Kuterevo bear shelter becoming part of a future Velebit animal park, but admits financing is a problem.