FOUR PAWS helps bears in Albania
FOUR PAWS signs agreement with Albanian Government to help bears
FOUR PAWS has announced plans to help mistreated bears in Albania after an agreement was reached with the country’s Environment Minister to work together to address the problem.
The private ownership of bears in cruel keeping conditions remains a complex enforcement and logistics issue in the Balkan states. In the past three years higher penalties for illegal bear ownership have been introduced in Kosovo, in which FOUR PAWS already runs a bear sanctuary. Unfortunately, in neighboring Albania, a large number of bears still suffer in inadequate conditions.
Approximately 80 bears still living in cruel conditions
FOUR PAWS’ founder Heli Dungler and the Albanian Minister of Environment, Lefter Koka, signed a memorandum of understanding, agreeing to work together to find sustainable and animal-friendly solutions for Albania’s brown bears, a species often captured and abused for profit and entertainment purposes.
In Albania there are still up to 80 bears leading a miserable existence in captivity. Abusive practices are not the only problem in the region. Almost all bears in private keeping in Albania have been illegally captured as cubs from the wild. Consequently, the wild bear population is estimated at approximately 250 animals and the species remains endangered.
Legal change needed as a first step
Brown bears living in the wild in Albania are already protected by law, but violations are usually either not prosecuted or nominal fines imposed. There is no official data available about the actual number of bears in captivity and the country adequate facilities to accommodate wild animals rescued from bad keeping conditions.
Therefore, as a first step, the penal system will be tightened and a registration system for brown bears in captivity will be developed alongside new guidelines for operating bear sanctuaries. Moreover, the existing law protecting native fauna will be extended to include all forms of cruel private keeping.
Lefter Koka, Minister of Environment of Albania commented: “First, we want to focus on ending the most cruel forms of bear keeping in Albania. There are many bears abused to attract tourists, for example in tiny cages near restaurants, on beaches or near famous sights. We want to strengthen the image of Albania as a responsible tourism destination, where cruelty towards animals has no legitimate place.”