The Dancing bears park is located in Rila Mountain at about 180 km south of Sofia. The park hosts 24 former dancing bears which were held in captivity and later rescued by volunteers and “Four paws” – the animal protection organization. Dancing Bears Park Belitsa, was founded in year 2000 and after the expansion work in 2003 to 2004, it now covers over 120,000 sq. m. of natural terrain. Until 2007 all of them were rescued and set free in the park.
Their ex-”owners” were gypsies who used the bears to perform tricks and beg for money. In order to perform these tricks the bear cubs were separated from their mother at 7-month age and were subjected to cruel training. First they have put piercing of the nose and upper lip and fixing a ring with chain. Then the nails and cupids were cut in order not to hurt his owner. After that they started putting the bear on a hot iron plate, with his paws greased with Vaseline and under musical accompaniment, the animal “danced” trying to avoid the unbearable pain. That is why when the bear hear sound of rebeck, it repeats these particular movements as reminiscence of previous pain.
The training of these animals to become dancing bears was cruel and therefore prohibited in the country in 1998. After all bears were saved, the Dancing bears park in Belitsa provided these animals with an environment that is natural and suited to their needs – dense forests and hills for walk, digging and privacy, meadows and specially designed sunny places for rest, large pools for swimming and dens for hibernation. Now this park is the largest bear sanctuary of its type in Europe.
The Dancing bears park Information Center has a terrace from which visitors can look at the entire area. It is planned to use it as a venue for lectures and discussions as well. The Information Center also houses a medical center for bears’ vet care and treatment, equipped with scientific and medical equipment.