The Greek bear sanctuary
Thanks to Arcturo’s awareness campaigns and conservation programmes, the size of the Greek brown bear population appears to have doubles in Pindus mountain range (predicted by many in the past to be close to disappearing).
At the village of Nymfaio in West Macedonia and nestled on Vitsi mountain range, at an altitude of over 1,300 meters high, operates Arcturos, the only brown bear shelter in Greece.
Arcturos cares and accommodates 15 female and male captive bears seized by their illicit owners (former dancing bears), or confiscated them from circuses and zoos, as well as infant bear cubs that were to be found orphan (the only ones, who are subjected to a special reintegration program - having a second chance to live in the wild).
The most important work of Arcturos is not protecting wildlife, but mainly a lesson of sustainability. Namely, ensure that man and nature co-exist in harmony, by allowing citizens to live within the boundaries of nature reserves.
About 14 kilometers away from the brown bear sanctuary, in the hamlet of Agrapidies the wolf sanctuary is also operated by Arcturos. Apart from rescuing imprisoned wolves is making a great effort in the reproduction and perpetuation of the Greek shepherd dog – the protector of the livestock farming, along with its free distribution to farmers of this hill county in Florina.
The Brown Bear Information Center is situated at the heart of Nymfaio and hosted inside a historic building, Nikeios school. There, the public can be informed by a bunch of really enthusiastic volunteers about the development of the breed, its geographical distribution, biology, ecology and the dangers it faces. An didactic experience for the children, too. There, you can get an understanding of how the fauna in Macedonia coexist with the local people and some of the most elemental struggles between them, to be played out daily. Behind all these soul-stirring creatures, a more sinister subplot has emerged as to why they are struggling across their environment. Nevertheless, the great work of Arcturos will leave you (at least for now) relieved.
The brown bear sanctuary is open every day (except Wednesdays) from 10:00 to 16:30, and closes throughout winter hibernation (from early January to early March). Guided tours take place every one hour and last for about 30 minutes, (last guided tour at 16:30).
The entrance fee is 6 Euros for adults and children over 12 years old, 4 Euros for children between 3 and 12 years old, and free entrance for children under 3 years old. The ticket is also valid for the wolf sanctuary (open only during the weekends from 10:00-16:30) as well as the Information Centre at Nymfaio (running also only in the weekend from 10:00-16:30).
If you want to contribute at the bear and wolf shelter: http://www.arcturos.gr/en/volunteerism/
Want to adopt of a brown bear, a wolf or Greek shepherd dog?
For any other information please contact the organization. http://www.arcturos.gr/en/contact-form/
* The animals captured in the photos above, are thriving in natural dens, being supervised by Arcturos.