The situation in Albania
The saddest bears in Europe?
FOUR PAWS believes that Albania is currently home to some of the saddest bears in Europe. Brown bear cubs are regularly snatched away from their mothers in the wild and traded illegally throughout the country to be exploited as tourist attractions or kept as pets in terrible conditions by people who have no idea how to meet the needs of these beautiful and complex wild animals.
The cubs are usually sold either privately as pets or to small businesses. In both cases, the common theme is that profit is the priority, and the welfare of the bears does not factor at all!
Most of the bears can then look forward to a life of miserable servitude, trapped in tiny cages as “tourist attractions” at restaurants, petrol stations or hotels as a way of luring customers.
Often the physical and psychological toll this takes on the bears is very visible, and the bears can be found in a vegetated state.
An equally cruel, yet slightly less common outcome is for the bears to be used as photo props on beaches and in cities and tourist places across the country. These bears are usually displayed by their owners on a short chain in combination with a nose ring where tourists can take photos of themselves and the bear in exchange for a small amount of money.
© FOUR PAWS | Hazir Reka
Wild, but for how long?
There is estimated to be between 180 and 250 brown bears currently living in the wild in Albania, sadly this number is likely to be in decline. FOUR PAWS also believes that the actual number of wild ranging bears is likely to be much smaller because of ongoing habitat destruction, hunting and poaching.
The decline of the wild population of brown bears and the growth in cruel keeping of captive bears have continued despite the fact that both the trophy hunting of bears AND the keeping of wild bears for exhibition purposes and as pets were both made illegal in 2006!
FOUR PAWS is now calling not only for new legislation but also recognises the urgent need for drastic improvements in the enforcement of existing laws. Furthermore, it is absolutely essential that awareness of this problem is raised within Albania, particularly in areas that experience this problem first hand.