Brasov is a sprawling Romanian city with a number of neighbourhoods extending into the Transylvanian wilderness. Proximity to the local bear population means human–bear conflicts are a frequent problem and major concern.
Bears that repeatedly raid the city’s bins – often encouraged by careless garbage disposal – are seen as ‘nuisance’ animals. They suffer persecution, captivity, injury or death as a result.
Additionally, the charm of these wild animals can lead uninformed members of the public to encourage the bears by feeding them, jeopardising both human and bear safety.
Looking for answers
Throughout 2006, WSPA worked with member society the Carpathian Wildlife Foundation on a project to stop bears feeding from bins in Racadau, an urban area near the forest.
The project involved a range of local stakeholders, reflecting its comprehensive, three-pronged approach:
- Improving waste management.
- Increasing public awareness.
- Humane management of 'problem' bears.
Prevention, education, relocation
WSPA began the project by funding the creation and installation of four bear-proof bins at key problem areas.
Recognising potential in this idea, a local waste management company replaced all Racadau’s bins with a bear-proof model. They were emptied regularly to prevent overspill and sprayed with bear-repelling substances.
Local volunteers worked with police to ensure waste wasn’t left outside the bins and prevent tourists feeding bears for photo opportunities – a dangerous activity!
The Carpathian Wildlife Foundation initiated a local public awareness programme, working with media, installing information panels, talking about bear welfare in local schools and distributing 1,500 brochures and 30,000 leaflets explaining the new waste management system.
Finally, WSPA provided advice on realistic yet humane methods to deal with persistent ‘problem’ bears. Working with the forestry department, The Carpathian Wildlife Foundation relocated these bears and monitored their activities, ensuring they remained in the forest, fed from natural sources and didn’t pass bin-raiding habits on.
Rewards of a rubbish solution
The project resulted in:
- Local stakeholders working together to prevent human–bear conflict.
- A successful new waste management strategy.
- Local police combatting careless rubbish disposal and the feeding of bears by tourists and locals.
- A realistic and humane alternative to dealing with ‘problem’ bears.
“This project shows how an international organisation can help resolve a local problem. By bringing in funds and expertise, WSPA has enabled a local member society to resolve a long standing animal welfare issue. In this case, a 15-year problem was turned around in the space of only a year, a result of all stakeholders working together.”
Iris Mazurek – WSPA wildlife programmes manager
Local problems can produce international solutions. WSPA’s network of human–bear conflict experts shares successful approaches that can be applied across the world.