Meet Sulo – the Bearman
In Finland, everybody loves living close to nature but Sulo Karjalainen, who lives surrounded by predators, takes it to extremes.
If you head about 30 kilometres south from Kuusamo, in the north of Finland, you may end up at an old farm on the shore of a lake. Recently, and over a short period of time, this spot has become quite a talking point and most Finns would recognise the name of its owner. Sulo Karjalainen has featured in numerous newspaper articles and he has even had his own TV documentary, as people have become fascinated by Sulo – because his relationship with Finland’s predators is something out of the ordinary.
“If you’re born in the woods, there’s something of the animal in you too”
– People know me because of the animals. That makes me happy. When you’ve lived in the forest since childhood, you’re naturally close to animals. I remember when I was a little boy I used to spend days in the sheep pen while my mother was milking the cows. I wasn’t even ten before I first saw a bear in the wild.
An orphanage for predators
– My home has turned into an orphanage for predators almost by accident. I was working on a research project and that led to people sending me bears that had been orphaned in collisions with cars or by hunting. Of course, I looked after them until they were well, and if they couldn’t be released into the wild again, they stayed here with me. It’s all just happened naturally and it’s been very rewarding. I’ve always aimed to give the animals everything they need and make sure they lead good lives. At the same time a deep bond has grown up between us.
The midnight sun means summer
– I’ve lived on the same farm in northern Finland all my life. There is plenty of wildlife here, lots of water and a varied forested landscape. I wouldn’t live anywhere else, especially not in the summer when it’s light throughout the night. Some tourists are bothered by the midnight sun and cover the windows of their hotel rooms with thick curtains so they can get to sleep. As I see it it’s the other way round. If the sun isn’t shining all night long, it doesn’t feel like summer at all.
The nature plays a big role in the life of a Finn. The wilderness is even closer in Lapland than in Southern Finland because the majority of the population of Finland is located in the south.