14 January 2019 – International animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS will take custody of two bears from Albania, who are in urgent need of a new home. The bears are currently living in deplorable conditions in a private mini zoo, which is part of a restaurant in the Albanian city of Shkoder. At present, FOUR PAWS is evaluating whether the animals will be brought to a European FOUR PAWS-owned or cooperating bear sanctuary that will also provide the bears with a species-appropriate environment. The long-term goal of the animal welfare organisation is to end cruel bear farming across Europe for good.
The two twelve-year-old brown bears, a male and a female, need a new home urgently. When they arrived at the privately-run mini zoo, they were still cubs. The nameless bears are kept in a dreary metal cage, only about 60 square metres in size, which is not close to being adequate for these large animals. Their range of movement is very limited, there is no enrichment or activity and, due to the lack of hiding spots, they are exposed to wind and weather every day. According to the owner, the animals come from the wild and their mothers are believed to have been victims of poachers. How exactly they got into the mini zoo is not known. The owner claims he took the bears in because they would not have been able to survive on their own.
Mini zoo finally closing down
Due to increased criticism from guests and tourists about the inappropriate keeping of the animals, their owner has fortunately decided to close the mini zoo. In November 2018, FOUR PAWS was notified and agreed to take custody of both bears. FOUR PAWS will now determine which of its own or cooperatively-run bear sanctuaries would be suitable for the animals.
“We recently learned that the owner of the restaurant who also owns the bears, plans to start renovating his restaurant soon. This means the bears need a new home quickly. In addition, organising an international wildlife transport within a few weeks is a huge logistical challenge.”
Carsten Hertwig, bear expert at FOUR PAWS
“Saddest Bears” Campaign: End Bear Suffering in Europe
Many bears in Europe spend their lives in agonising surroundings, kept in tiny cages near restaurants or hotels, where they are exhibited as tourist attractions. The cramped, inappropriate living conditions are very stressful for the animals both physically and mentally. Many of them are in poor general condition. FOUR PAWS intends to put an end to the cruel keeping of bears in Albania as part of its “Saddest Bears” campaign. In March 2016, FOUR PAWS signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Albanian Ministry of Environment with the aim of jointly finding a sustainable and animal-friendly solution for the many Albanian bears living in catastrophic conditions. Since then, in cooperation with the Albanian authorities and other animal welfare organisations, more than 26 bears have been rescued and transferred to foreign wildlife sanctuaries. Six of these bears now live in the FOUR PAWS bear sanctuaries in Kosovo, Germany and Bulgaria.
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