You can see from our logo and website that we love bears! So when we chose Schloss Leizen as the best possible location for Germany For Kids we were delighted to discover that nearby is this amazing bear sanctuary doing great work for these beautiful creatures.
Baerenwald Muritz is just a ten minute drive or 30-40 minute bike ride from our gates at Schloss Leizen . Of all the great museums and attractions in the area this is one of our favourites, because of the important work they do but also because of the opportunity it gives young people to witness large animals in an environment very close to how they would live in the wild.
Created just over ten years ago Baerenwald Muritz is the largest bear sanctuary in Western Europe. Baerenwald rescues bears living in unsuitable and often appalling conditions and provides them with a habitat as close as possible to how they might live in the wild. Unfortunately bears kept in captivity can not be releases into the wild as they would not survive so Baerenwald’s mission is purely to give them the quality of natural life that they missed in the years before rescue.
There are 16 brown bears currently enjoying their time at Baerenwald, they come primarily from unlicensed or unsuitable zoos or animal parks, some have previously been circus bears or even exploited as dancing bears, a practise that sadly still continues in some European countries.
These 16 bears have 16 hectares in which to roam, the site provides most of the mixed habitat that bears love naturally with forest, meadows and a natural stream, however Baerenwald also add extra ponds for bathing and play features and activities to keep the bears entertained. Each bear is individual and some were previously kept in worse conditions than others so each react differently to their beautiful new surroundings, some choosing to hibernate and others not.
The only thing that is truly different to a life in the wild is that the bears at Baerenwald are encouraged to socialise, normally bears are solitary animals, this decision was made as it was found that interaction with other bears enabled their recuperation and acclimatisation to their new home.
You might be thinking that if Baerenwald is so much like nature can visitors even see the bears? Well it is true that every individual animal always has the choice to withdraw to an area where they can be alone when they want peace and quiet, but it’s also true that though every single bear’s behaviours change here, they are far more accustomed to humans than truly wild bears, we visit often and have always seen a selection of bears, play-fighting, eating, splashing in the water or just asleep. The whole site has been laid out in such a way that visitors get an opportunity to witness bears, but in a less-intrusive manner, also there are information boards along the way plus picnic areas and children’s playgrounds.
As part of our activity program here at Germany For Kids a visit to Baerenwald is almost essential, not only are the animals hugely popular with the children, but so much can be learned from the experience.
Baerenwald is in the village of Stuer where we have an annex, our own kitchen garden where our young guests learn to grow food for their meals at Germany For Kids. Stuer also has an incredible amount of historical monuments, there is a genuine ruined castle and six(!) ancient stone burial sites, read about them here. We often combine visits to these locations with a trip to Baerenwald.
For more information about Baerenwald visit their website, or follow them on Facebook, support them by buying gifts from their shop or take a look at the emotional videos below telling the stories of bear rescues.
Kasia and Basia are rescued from Poland.
Bruno is rescued from a zoo closure in Lubeck, previously he was a circus bear.