Kuterevo is a small mountain village located on the slopes of north Velebit, around 15 km away from Otočac in Lika-Senj County. It is connected to Otočac and Krasno via local roads. It is known for handmade traditional Croatian string instruments dangubica (a type of tamburica) and its magical bear sanctuary.
The Kuterevo bear sanctuary was founded in 2002 when the need for a place to rescue orphan bears was recognized. With the growing traffic and poaching in the area, and all over Croatia, more and more momma bears were accidentally or intentionally killed leaving cubs without any care and nurture. The sanctuary adopts young bears that hadn’t been given a chance to gain all the knowledge and skills from their parents so it’s not safe for them to be released back into the wild.
It is a unique project – the association that manages the sanctuary, with the help of experts and volunteers, takes care of the bears for the rest of their lives with the love for bears being their primary cause. They give them a chance to live, play, hibernate and grow stronger, and in return, the bears give us a chance to learn by observing. The educational part is really important for the founders, they want visitors to familiarize themselves with the wild in a safe environment and to see that the bears can be charismatic and curious. They are still wild animals so don’t go too near the large enclosures – their ground rule is Never cross the line.
The project relies mostly on sponsors and donations from institutions, schools and visitors themselves. There is an ethno/eco village within the sanctuary where you can see how people used to live in that area and buy various handmade souvenirs with all profit going back to food and other supplies for bears. I carry my wonderfully carved bear pendant where ever I go, and find my visit to be an amazing experience and a chance to learn about the beautiful animals. Our guide was a Russian volunteer that had been living there for more than a year at the time and learned a lot of Croatian. He took us through the sanctuary and told us how each and every one of the bears ended up there. The bears were shy at first, but one of them gave us quite a show bathing in a small pool and playing with a piece of wood. I hope your visit turns out to be as awesome as mine!
The sanctuary also holds a Volunteer center where people from all over Croatia and abroad can join to help the bears. Everything is eco-sustainable – they recycle, compost, use rain water and grow most of their food. They live for the bears, learn from them and have fun while they’re at it.
You can continue reading about them, but with visiting you can donate (even a little) to help the sanctuary expand its capacities so that other orphan baby bears can have a safe home. Volunteers come from all over the world, so why don’t you join them in an adventure?
Special thanks to the kind folk at the sanctuary for the photos.
You can check out the volunteer and official websites here: