Four Paws to rescue two of ‘Saddest Bears’ in Albania
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DURBAN - International animal welfare organisation Four Paws will take custody of two bears from Albania in urgent need of a new home.
The bears are currently living in what the organisation labelled “deplorable conditions” in a private mini zoo, which is part of a restaurant in the Albanian city of Shkoder.
They are two of the last four restaurant bears in Albania.
Four Paws said it is currently evaluating whether the animals will be brought to a European Four Paws-owned or co-operating 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 bear farming across Europe for good.
When they arrived at the privately-run mini zoo, they were still cubs.
The nameless bears are kept in a metal cage and their range of movement is limited, Four Paws said.
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. According to Four Paws, the owner claims he took the bears in because they would not have been able to survive on their own.
Due to increased criticism from guests and tourists, the owner has decided to close the mini zoo.
“We recently learnt that the owner of the restaurant, who also owns the bears, plans to start renovating his restaurant. This means the bears need a new home quickly. In addition, organising international wildlife transport within a few weeks is a huge logistical challenge,” said the Four Paws bear expert Carsten Hertwig.
Four Paws country director Fiona Miles said 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,” Miles said.
Four Paws intends putting 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 co-operation 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.