Winter time means hard work!

Snow was falling in Kuterevo for close to two months and although it’s disappearing faster and faster by now, the volunteers are fast asleep in hibernation, which leaves the all-day work to our bears.

While the lazy humans can be heard snoring in their smelly dens, at eight in morning our fellow bear wakes up to the sound of his alarm clock (which plays “Bear, you can count on me!“ – enjoy live version at minute 2.10 of the movie Kuterevo Spirit!). The day seems to be a nice one; the sun is up, no clouds in sight. A trip to the balcony for the obligatory morning stretch helps to get the body going despite the hour.

The volunteers, sleeping and not wasting a thought on their physical appearance and their smell, leave the shower to only one guest, who uses it singing (“Bear, you can count on me!”) and dancing. Soon, nature calls and the fluffy companion grabs the latest version of a horrifying novel about hunting, killing, selling and even eating bears. The reader, noticeably shocked, but now surely awake, is almost forgetting what he went for the compost toilet for.

Inspired by these terrifying pictures and thoughts in his head, the king of the forest tries to get creative, takes the guitar and starts composing something, that – in his opinion – has never been there before (to me it sounds like a very bad version of “Bear, you can count on me!”). Apart from his ridiculously huge hands and his inability to actually look at his instrument, animals from the species Ursus arctos are notorious for a French, that is said to be able to get fresh milk bad in seconds. For that (and angry shouts of complaints from neighbours, chickens, roosters, cats and ducks alike), our musician gives up his efforts for now.

Instead, nature calls another time. In the opposite direction, however, so the artist becomes a cook for a short time.

If you take a closer look to the pot, you will notice that something is wrong with it… That’s right, the pot is empty. This and the terrible results of the Kuterevian picking up the guitar, has left renowned scientists in brain research at large carnivores reconsidering the broadly as “highly developed” accepted intelligence of the European brown bear.

No one, however, can neglect his physical strength, which is always needed in the refuge. The snow has to be cleaned away between the buildings of the metropolis-like location “Utočište”, and that appears to be a job just right for an animal mainly consisting of protecting fur and giant muscles. The task of painting timber for the inner fence of the new enclosure requires the help of one volunteer, who is not happy of being woken up in the middle of his well-deserved hibernation.

The work leaves the bear in such a way exhausted, that he tries to get himself something between his teeth on the traditional way: hunting. This, unfortunately, is as successful as playing instruments or cooking, so he has to find other options to find food.

While thinking about that topic, his friends arrived. Three of them, if you want exact numbers. With the same enormously large hands, but at least able to see a bit better. Together, they conspire an assault on the inhabitants of the place. One bear plans to act nice, speak human language and drink with the people. After getting their victims drunk, the animals want to take over their houses and live in prosperity until the end of their lives. The plan failed, but at least the bears managed to behave so funny that the house-owners offered them food for their home “Volonterska Postaja”.

Very happy and well-fed with local specialties, the bear falls into his bed, still wondering, where his friends went and if he should pick up the guitar again tomorrow. While sleeping, confusing dreams sneak into his head (probably produced by his immense happiness). Pictures of him, being deeply in love with a volunteer and the volunteer with him. Waking up, quite thirsty, he realizes that he was dreaming of reality.

Lukas

SVI / Itinéraire International Team in Kuterevo

Hi there, blog readers

We are group of 6 frenchies coming to Kuterevo to live an experience with bears: Nicoline, Linda, Maud, Clement, Leti and Adama. We come from Nantes, a lovely city in the west side of the pentagone. No we don’t have no Effeil tower but we have nice people and some delicious biscuits 😉

So our group is composed of 4 girls and 2 boys (unfortuaned for us), we meet on September , in order to prepare the trip. We arrived 9 days ago in Zagreb and we were amazed by the architecture of the city.

We slept in a youth hostel not basic „noisy, I-can-barelly-sleep“ hostel. THE Youth Hostel with comfy sofa in front of the TV, hot chocolate and awesome hosts telling stories about the people coming here . We only slept one night but it was a hearth-breaking leaving. Our sorrows were soon forgotten thanks to the amazing view of the Velebit mountains. Once arrived we met Ivan, the Croatian Santa Claus, foundator of the refuge and savior of bear. With him we met Amelie, our awesome French/ Croatian translator and responsible of the volonteers.

I bet you all want to know the 1st thing we did when we arrived to Postaja, the volonteers HQ. No? Oh don t try to hide your obvious curiosity, I will tell you. Well, the 1st thing we did was asking for the WIFI ! What a twist, huh?

No, we met the others volonteers before that .
Leo, the Belgian rasta-music lover (the only thing he smokes is cigarettes though).
Lukas, our German mascot that goes crazy-potatoes at the sight of French cheeze.
Later in the week end we were joined by two older volonteers; Aniol and Lilli our catalan and Finn representers.

After that, our charmig little team was ready to meet our furry friends in the enclosure near Postaja. We were so happy to see the bears we almost forgot to use our eyes to watch them instead of our cameras. Once the introduction over we helped the volonteers gathering carrots, cooking bread and yogurt (for us, not the bears).

Oh, and we dont sleep in Postaja like the other volonteers. No, our French skin cannot stand the cold of the night , so we actually lives in a house 300 feet away. With running hot water, comfy beds, big 3D screen with surrouding HQ sound (ok, it might be a lie). Anyway, its way more comfortable than Postaja.

After one night of sleep , we went to our first day of work. I know you will say „By work you mean feeding the bears and stuff, right ?“ – No dude, this is entertainment¸ Im talking about real, hardcore, bones-breaking work: Building an enclosure (Ta ta taaaam !!). So basically, 6 out of 10 days we are working on the enclosure with Ivan and Josa if the weather is cool. By the way, Josa is a worker from the village that totally looks like Hank in the breaking bad serie (I call him Hank but he doesn’t get it). The work is hard (lifting heavy stuff, basically) but its rewarded by something great at the end of the day! Soup! Yeah! Everybody loves Soup, right?

About the activites in the village, theres that fabulous place called the mini-market, where you can buy something to eat that’s not vegetables (God bless this place). Besides that, we did a lot of things like going early in the morning to Miča and Marica’s place to get milk. Marica is the grandma of every volonteer, she’s the nice old lady every village needs. In certains evenings, Maja comes to teach the Croatian for those who seek knowledge. No, I’m not making any jokes on this one, eh!

After work at 5pm, we can do whatever we want (even gangsta-bad things, like not flushing the toilets, Thug Life!). Anyways, we are having great times here in Kuterevo and I am not promoting the place or something but if you loves bears, beers, and working with bare hands, you should come ASAP.

Au revoir ! – Team Frenchies

Spring!

Spring came and with it Kuterevo bears have started eating many herbs, visitors are becoming more numerous and new volunteers are joining the work, that is also increasing. Jordi from Nancy (France), volunteering in Vukovar this year, Caroline and Eve from Toulouse (France), Maja and Vesna from Zagreb, Juliette from Paris, Jean from Bretagne (France as well) and Elija from Lithuania came for few days, or few weeks to help in the new season. And to enjoy the every day Postaja life and newly arrived little ducks and geese.

We are working the first enclosure of the refuge, which after 12 years of honorable career needs a full renovation. We took away the old fence, we are putting a new one, and we are building a new giant pool. All these would not be possible without the supervision of our Kuterevo majstor Milan (for us “Wikič”) .

The weather is perfect for work in the gardens, we are preparing the soil and starting to planting garlic, onions, winter salads, and some new trees in the bear botanical garden.

Last week was also the Week of Action for the SCI campain Create a Climate for Peace Here I let you a link on SCI website if you are interesting in what was done, or on Kuterevo volunteers’ blog 🙂

 

For the bears, we collect a lot of herbs that they like like, Taraxacum off., Sanguisorba of., Plantago major, Nasturtium officinalis. From Zagreb arrived a truck with a ton of carrots and 800 kg of apples. In addition we bought 250 kg of walnuts. In the nature, the bears expend most of their time and energy looking for food. So, for keeping our bears more active, we try to make enrichments for them: we give them some big rotten wood from the forest so they can find insects inside, ice cubes filled with fruits so they spend good time playing and refreshing themselves… and we are preparing some more toys, making holes in pieces of wood and filling them with peanut butter, sun seeds, herbs and fruits.

The volunteer group from the Otoćac High school chose its name: “medvjedi dobrog srca” (bears whit good heart). They came to the refuge to spend a day with us, planting in the garden, making souvenirs and working on the enclosure under reconstruction. We also gave to the bears the herbs they collected the day before in the city.

 

Ah… I was forgetting… a donation of 200 teddy bears arrived from our friends in Germany with the Kuterevo Bear Refuge logo 🙂 It is possible to buy them when visiting the refuge to support our campaign Land for the Bears aiming to renovate old enclosures and build new ones. We are ready for your visits!

Guaci