A bear hug: Croat vil­lage shel­ters neigh­borly bears over their life­time

The China Post - - LIFE - BBY AMEL EM­RIC

Usu­ally in Europe, when bear cubs get used to hu­mans, they can­not sur­vive in the wild. And when they grow too big, they’re shot.

But not in the re­mote moun­tain vil­lage of Kutarevo, Croa­tia. Here since 2002, re­tired so­cial worker Ivan Crnkovic- Pavenka has pro­vided a haven for brown bears that wan­der into vil­lages in search of food and de­velop too strong a taste for hu­man left­overs.

Two sanc­tu­ar­ies walled off with sim­ple chain- link fences al­low the eight res­i­dent bears to roam freely be­side, but not into, the vil­lage. To the rear lies for­est wilder­ness, where the do- mes­ti­cated bears would face risk of attack by wild bears. So the bears are con­fined to two en­clo­sures ap­prox­i­mately 150 me­ters ( yards) wide each.

“We wanted to of­fer an al­ter­na­tive to killing or­phan bear cubs that got at­tached to hu­man civ­i­liza­tion,” Crnkovic- Pavenka said.

Hun­dreds of vol­un­teers world­wide come to Kutarevo an­nu­ally to help Crnkovic- Pavenka. Vis­i­tors are ad­vised to en­joy watch­ing the bears, a mix­ture of ju­ve­niles and adults, play and eat and laze about.

While most of Europe’s brown bears have been wiped out, Croa­tia’s na­tive pop­u­la­tion is es­ti­mated at 1,000.

A vol­un­teer from

France, Amelie Ja­quet, said other Euro­pean coun­tries should fol­low Croa­tia’s lead if they have any na­tive bears left.

“When you come here to help, you ac­tu­ally re­al­ize that some­thing is wrong in your own coun­try,” Ja­quet said. “We killed all the bears and we do not know how to live with na­ture any­more.”

Crnkovic- Pavenka says he’s ex­pe­ri­enced just one life- threat­en­ing event in 13 years’ work at the sanc­tu­ary, when res­cu­ing a Ger­man vol­un­teer who had wan­dered into an en­clo­sure and started ser­e­nad­ing the bears by gui­tar. The Ger­man was bit­ten but suf­fered no se­ri­ous wounds, and the bear had to be shot to res­cue Crnkovic- Pavenka. Em­i­lien Al­louch­ery from Cham­pagne Al­louch­ery Per­se­val moved back to the fam­ily’s eight-hectare Mon­tagne de Reims es­tate about 10 years ago, hav­ing worked over­seas for winer­ies in New Zealand and South Africa. What did he learn, mak­ing wine out­side of the Cham­pagne re­gion? “English!” he grins. The con­fi­dence and in­di­vid­u­al­ity of this rock star looka­like is typ­i­cal of those in the area in which he is work­ing, the mi­lieu of Les Cham­pagnes de Vignerons — Grower Cham­pagne.

In a sim­i­lar vein, Jean-Philippe Moulin, rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Cham­pagne Paul Go­erg, de­clares that they don’t even nec­es­sar­ily keep their “best” grapes but rather the ones they like and want to work with. They sell the re­main­der to the big houses. And Alain Le­gret of Cham­pagne Le­gret & Fils says that in­come is made from his five hectares by sell­ing grapes to the big houses — leav­ing him free to make ex­actly the style of cham­pagne he wants to with the grapes he re­tains. He makes about 20,000 bot­tles a year. Though lo­cated on the Cote des Blancs, fa­mous for its chardon­nay, he grows pinot noir say­ing his par­tic­u­lar vil­lage is well-suited to red.

The trend for grape grow­ers to bot­tle their own wine rather than sell

(Right) In this photo taken on April 4, young bears play at the bear shel­ter in Kutarevo.

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