London, 9 December 2022 – Today, FOUR PAWS have rescued the last ‘restaurant bear’ in Albania. Thea 24-year-old brown bear called Mark was previously kept as a tourist attraction next to a restaurant in Tirana. For two long decades he suffered in a tiny cage with concrete floors, uncared for, alone and unable to live out any natural behaviours.
Today, Mark’s life changed forever as he arrived at BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach in Austria. Here he will spend the rest of his years in a species-appropriate home, with other bears and access to the ongoing health care he needs to thrive.
After a thorough medical check, Mark journeyed from Albania through North Macedonia, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary, finally arriving in Austria today.
Previously, in his tiny cage, Mark was exposed to heat and extreme weather conditions, with no place to retreat and was constantly exposed to the stares of restaurant visitors. He had also never been able to hibernate – something that is so quintessential for any bear. Thankfully the restaurant owner handed Mark into the care of FOUR PAWS voluntarily and has agreed in writing that no bears will ever suffer at the restaurant again.
“Mark spent more than 20 years in a barren cage that was much too small and lacked materials to keep him busy and stimulated. Due to boredom and stress, he displayed abnormal behaviours, including repetitive pacing and biting on the metal bars of his cage.
He is severely overweight, his teeth are partially broken, and the way he moves indicates that he needs further examination and treatment. Soon our team at BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach will provide Mark with necessary veterinary treatments, proper care, and species-appropriate food so he can hopefully recover and enjoy a bear-worthy life."
Magdalena Scherk-Trettin, FOUR PAWS wild animal rescue and advocacy projects coordinator
While Mark’s rescue is a significant milestone, bears in Albania are still in danger of being abused as pets or tourist attractions in the future without a change in legislation.
“We are overjoyed that bear Mark has been welcomed safely into his new home at BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach in Austria.
No animal should be exploited for so-called “entertainment”, and Mark’s new chapter signifies not only the end of his captivity but also the demise of a cruel aspect of Albania’s history that couldn’t have ended soon enough.
Since our arrival in Albania in 2016 to today, all 30 bears that were kept in inappropriate conditions like Mark have been freed from this imprisonment.
Whilst we are celebrating the end of bears being kept beside restaurants, our plight continues in advocating for tighter legislation against the private keeping of all wild animals in Albania and across the globe.”
Sonul Badiani-Hamment, Country Director at FOUR PAWS UK