6th May 2019 – International animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS has discovered a male brown bear cub being held in shocking conditions in the basement of a Kosovar National Park ranger’s property. The months-old cub was supposed to reunited with his mother in the wild weeks ago, after the cub was found by a member of the public in February. FOUR PAWS has offered several times to the Kosovar Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning to take over the bear cub and house it in its species-appropriate BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina. The government has so far ignored all offers and refuses to intervene. FOUR PAWS is now calling for protest.
On 26th February, a Kosovar local spotted the young animal in front of his house. Originally the man thought he had found a puppy, but on closer inspection it was clear the animal was a brown bear. The notified authorities picked up the bear cub and assured that the cub would be taken back to his mother in the Sharr Mountains National Park. In a shocking turn of events, a FOUR PAWS team member discovered that the cub is still being kept by the National Park management in the basement of a restaurant which belongs to a ranger.
“The bear was found in shocking conditions, being held in a small wooden box in the dirty and dark cellar. The cub has little chance to move and rarely sees daylight. This form of keeping is horrific animal cruelty. We informed the responsible authorities immediately, but they still refuse to intervene”
says Afrim Mahmuti, who manages FOUR PAWS’ BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina
Kosovar government breaks its own laws
According to an agreement signed between FOUR PAWS and the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning in 2012, FOUR PAWS’ BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina is the only facility in Kosovo legally permitted to keep and care for brown bears in need. The private keeping of bears, especially as restaurant attractions, is prohibited. Since 2014, there have been no cases of private bear keeping in Kosovo.
“It is shocking that the government does not abide by its own laws and has placed the orphaned bear in the obviously incompetent hands of its National Park staff. Animal welfare is clearly being trampled on here. The terrible and inappropriate keeping conditions of the bear cub will lead to serious behavioural problems. The bear will also not remain this small forever. Sooner or later he/she will be a real danger for the owner and the restaurant visitors”
says FOUR PAWS bear expert Carsten Hertwig
Protest against Kosovar government
FOUR PAWS offered to take responsibility for the bear cub on several occasions with the organisation’s BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina well-equipped to provide the space and species-appropriate care the bear urgently needs. However, the Kosovar Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning, which is the official owner of the bear cub, turned down all offers. “We are now forced to act. Every day the bear has to spend in the dark and filthy basement is one day too many. We have therefore launched a worldwide protest. We hope that the Kosovar government will come to its senses and finally hand over the bear to us,” says Hertwig.
BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina: home of traumatised bears
FOUR PAWS’ 16-hectare large BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina is located about 20 kilometres outside the Kosovar capital. Currently, 19 brown bears, who were previously kept as so-called restaurant bears in Kosovo and Albania, lead a species-appropriate life there with plenty of natural space and water sources. The task of the sanctuary, which FOUR PAWS opened in 2013, also includes educational work. Visitors can see the bears in their natural environment and learn more about them and other animal species.
FOUR PAWS is an international animal welfare organisation with headquarters in Vienna, Austria. Founded by Heli Dungler in 1988, the organisation strives to help animals in need with sustainable campaigns and projects. The work is based on substantiated research and scientific expertise as well as intensive national and international lobbying. FOUR PAWS focuses on animals that are directly under human influence: stray dogs and stray cats, farm animals, companion animals and wild animals including bears, big cats and orang-utans kept in inappropriate conditions. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Kosovo, Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand, Ukraine, United Kingdom, USA and Vietnam, FOUR PAWS aims to help animals in need directly and quickly. www.four-paws.org.uk