Today, March 23rd, the world celebrates International Bear Day – a day dedicated to acknowledging these wondrous animals and raising awareness about the challenges bears face due to climate change and increasing deforestation practices. 

To celebrate this day, The Bite is showcasing photos from a trip that 12 AISB students and 3 teachers took on June 10, 2022, to one of the largest bear sanctuaries in Europe: Libearty Bear. 

PAWS, the animal welfare service learning group at AISB, joined The Social Entrepreneurship student group in their quest to find out more about the sanctuary, specifically their rescue strategy and ways of raising funds. 

Millions of Friends Association founded the sanctuary in 2005 and it is now home to over 130 bears rescued from abusive lifestyles in which humans either caged them for tourists to take pictures, or drugged them to keep them calm. Through monthly donations and a virtual adoption program, Millions of Friends manages to support both the sanctuary and a shelter for stray animals, The Victory Dog Shelter.

The students spent a full day at the sanctuary, just enough time for them to glimpse the sanctuary and learn the heartbreaking stories of some of the housed bears. 

Hana A. and Marko G., AISB students, on the way to the sanctuary
 MYP and DP French and Mother Tongue teacher Isabelle Seigneur, on the way to the sanctuary
Students chatting at a gas station in Busteni
Stretch breaks were important on the long bus ride

Students of all ages from all around the country packed the sanctuary entrance patiently waiting to be let in. To avoid overcrowding the paths of the sanctuary, officials allowed groups to enter separately, which allowed them to spend more time observing the animals.

The billboard at the entrance to the sanctuary, showing Maya the bear, to whom the sanctuary was dedicated
The entrance to the sanctuary
After an introduction by the guide, the group began the tour
Some of the bears living at the sanctuary
Some of the bears living at the sanctuary
The guide shows the group the swimming pools the bears use
Some of the other animals living at the sanctuary: deer!
Image showing Max’s story, displayed for the visitors at the end of the tour
The hideout spot of a few deer
Visitors who were in the same group as the AISB students
Wild strawberries
Seigneur sampling the berries

Eliza O., one of the students who visited the sanctuary, says she was “wholly impressed by the sheer expanse of the reservation.” Upon arrival at Libearty, all students watched a short film recording on the sanctuary’s purpose and history, which greatly moved Eliza; “That and the thorough knowledge of the tour guide—definitely worth a visit!”