International animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS fights to retrieve three lions from unsuitable conditions in Albania. Lions Lenci, Bobby and Zhaku were rescued from the neglected Safari Park Zoo Fier and temporarily accommodated in Tirana Zoo in October 2018. Now the Albanian authorities block the departure of the lions to a specialiced FOUR PAWS facility in the Netherlands, citing an ongoing lawsuit for damage to property initiated by the former owner of the animals. However, the lions play no part in the lawsuit and FOUR PAWS had been allowed to transfer a bear, rescued during the same mission and also temporarily placed at Tirana Zoo, to Germany at the beginning of April. FOUR PAWS is now calling for a protest against those responsible in the Albanian government.
FOUR PAWS tirelessly campaigns for the departure of the lions, originally rescued from “Europe’s worst zoo”. It was agreed with the Albanian Ministry of Environment and Tourism that the animals would be transferred to the FOUR PAWS Big Cat Centre FELIDA in the Netherlands. There, the three lions can receive the medical care and attention they urgently need. However, the Albanian government thwarted this plan. “It is inexplicable to us why we cannot relocate Lenci, Bobby and Zhaku. The Albanian authorities cite a court case as the reason, but we know that the lions are not subject of this case. The animals have nothing to do with it. Otherwise we wouldn't have been able to bring bear Dushi, who we also temporarily accommodated at Tirana Zoo, to our bear sanctuary in Germany,” says Ioana Dungler, Director of the Wild Animals Department at FOUR PAWS and responsible for rescuing the animals from the Safari Park Zoo last year.
Tirana Zoo only as a stopover
FOUR PAWS rescued a total of ten wild animals from Safari Park Zoo last October. Most of the animals were brought to the Tirana Zoo. There, veterinarians took care of the medical first aid. The three lions and the three-legged bear, Dushi, would stay in Tirana until all formalities for a further journey to FOUR PAWS’ sanctuaries were clarified. On 3rd April the bear was allowed to leave for Germany. “Although we are grateful for the support of Tirana Zoo, the enclosures are not ideal for an extended stay for the lions. They are way too small and only have concrete floors. The animals have no possibility to go outside and they are locked up in a confined space all day. We are seriously concerned that the lions will develop severe behavioural problems,” explains Dungler.
Protest against the Albanian government
All negotiations to date with the Albanian authorities have not yet led to a concrete outcome. Again and again the departure date had to be postponed. The last information was that the animals might be allowed to move to the Netherlands in September. This is clearly too late for FOUR PAWS, which is why they are now calling for a protest against the authorities. “Our patience has come to an end. Only because of bureaucratic arbitrariness the lions have to suffer further in Albania, while we can offer them a species-appropriate life now. We expect the Albanian government to be a reliable partner and we hope they will respect their commitments made for these animals,” says Dungler.
Safari Park Zoo in Fier: "Europe's worst zoo”
The three lions already have a hard past behind them, growing up in the infamous Safari Park Zoo in Albania. FOUR PAWS investigated the zoo several times since December 2015. Due to legal regulations, an intervention was not possible for a long time. Photos from inside the Albanian zoo appeared in mid-October 2018 and led to outrage around the globe. The photos showed the terrible keeping conditions of the animals. International media called the Safari Park Zoo “Europe's worst zoo” and “Zoo from hell”. The Albanian Ministry of Environment and Tourism decided to confiscate all wild animals. FOUR PAWS supported the authorities and agreed to accommodate the lions and bears in its own sanctuaries.