Max, a beloved resident of the supporter-funded bear sanctuary in Romania, has passed away peacefully after a short illness.
Poached from the wild as a cub in 1997, Max endured 11 years as a photo prop for tourists in the town of Sinaia, Romania. By the time he was rescued, he’d been chained to the same spot for so long his weight had bent the iron fence he leaned on.
Max was brought to safety at the Zarnesti bear sanctuary in 2006. After an extensive health-check, our vets found his eyes were badly damaged, and surgery couldn’t help. Years of abuse – we think from repeated blows to his head – had cost this beautiful brown bear his sight.
Despite his blindness, Max was brave. Feeling the forest earth for the first time beneath his paws, smelling the other bears nearby and foraging for acorns gave him a new lease of life. When he showed a love for swimming, you – our amazing supporters – helped fund a special, accessible pool. He loved to bathe and play in it every single day.
Max’s disabilities made him too vulnerable to live with more active, boisterous bears. But thankfully, he was never alone. His slow, gentle nature calmed Monica – a small, feisty brown bear – and they became friends and roommates. She had picked fights with most of the other bears, but Max and Monica found peace and happiness together.
Aged 22, Max wasn’t particularly old for a bear when he died. The years of abuse had worn him down, despite the best efforts of staff to treat and care for him. But of some comfort to all the people around the world who loved him was that his final years were peaceful. He had all the tasty food, forest space, swimming time and company he could ever need.
RIP Max, 1997 – 2018
Max’s memory will be in our hearts forever, and our partners at Zarnesti, the Millions of Friends Association, will hold a special memorial service to remember him.