One young boy's dream came true at 11am on Friday 24th March, when Theo Curtiss-Sperring got to release the Wildwood bears back into their huge outdoor enclosure after a long winter hibernation.
Hundreds of Wildwood members and visitors came to watch the ceremony as the bears, rescued from appalling cruelty in Bulgaria, get to once again run and frolic in their amazing woodland habitat at the Wildwood Discovery Park in Kent. The Wildwood rope bear bridge was then opened and visitors got to walk over the enclosure for a birds eye view of the bears at play.
Our happy bears are out in their large enclosure until the Autumn and our rope will be open as long as our bears are active.
High resolution images also available on request. Permission will need to be granted for use of images containing Theo Curtiss-Sperring.
The story of our bears
The early years...
The bears had lived their entire lives in small, barren concrete pits in an abandoned bear breeding centre called Kormissosh, in Bulgaria. Kormissosh was used to breed bears to be shot by hunters until 1993 when bear hunting was outlawed. As a result, Kormissosh was abandoned, leaving the bears to a life of misery and neglect. Only the kindness of local villagers saw the bears being fed, their main diet being hardened blocks of porridge.
As Kormissosh was a breeding centre, the males and females were not separated when the centre was abandoned and the bears continued to breed. Our bears (males, both now aged around 17yrs) were born at Kormissosh and had never been outside of their concrete pens before being rescued by Wildwood.
To rescue the bears, Wildwood worked in partnership with Bears In Mind, a Netherlands based charity which works to rescue bears around the world. After a desperate push to raise the £50,000 needed for their transportation and quarantine enclosure, Wildwood managed to bring the bears to their site in Kent in November 2014. The rescue operation was in fact brought forward by 5 months as it was feared that the bears might not survive the winter.
A new life at Wildwood...
After arriving at Wildwood, the bears lived in their smaller quarantine enclosure whilst their larger woodland enclosure area was completed. As soon as it was ready, the bears were allowed out to explore their new home one at a time until they were both familiar with their surroundings.
Although brothers, the bears had never seen each other when at Kormissosh, and were gradually introduced through the enclosure wires over a period of time. It was felt that 'discussions' took place during this period, so when they did eventually meet 'face-to-face' in March 2016, there was no altercations and they still get on very well.
The rest of 2016 saw the bears wowing visitors to Wildwood with their gentle and inquisitive natures. They did begin to slow down in the Autumn months and went into semi-hibernation for, what we believe, is the first time ever.
Our aim is for the bears in our charge to become as natural as possible, and make sure that their physical and mental health are as perfect as we can achieve. To this end, we're slowly working towards them realising a four month hibernation at the end of 2017, which should lead to them approaching a full natural rhythm by the Summer of 2018.
With our large enclosure having the capacity to comfortably fit five bears, we may also look towards supporting more bears at Wildwood dependant on whether we deem it beneficial for our exisiting bears. Watch this space!
Wildwood Trust opened in 1999 as a centre of excellence for the conservation of British wildlife, and was established as a registered charity in 2002. Wildwood is Kent's best British wildlife park. Home to over 200 native animals, past and present and set in 40 acres of beautiful ancient woodland where visitors can see bears, wolves, bison, deer, owls, foxes, red squirrels, wild boar, lynx, wild horses, badgers and beavers plus many more. As one of the leading British animal conservation charities in the UK, Wildwood Trust is dedicated to saving Britain's most threatened wildlife. Wildwood Trust have taken part in many ground-breaking conservation programmes to date, which include, saving the water vole, using wild horses to help restore Kent's most precious nature reserves, bringing the extinct European beaver back to Britain and returning the hazel dormouse & red squirrel to areas where they have been made extinct.
Wildwood Trust Herne Common Herne Bay Kent CT6 7LQ