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Europe's “saddest bears” still suffering in Albania


FOUR PAWS reveals new cases of mistreatment of young bears

Sydney, 28th September 2017In 2016, the international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS began its work in Albania to save the “saddest bears in Europe” from poor keeping conditions. Although much has been achieved in the last year, current research shows that there is still a desperate need for action. Around 20 bears are still being used, mainly for entertainment purposes, and are suffering in squalid living conditions which in no way meet their needs as a species. FOUR PAWS has called on the Albanian Government to act urgently in order to save these animals.

The situation for captive bears in Albania is still critical. Recent research conducted by the international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS documents new, serious cases.

"It is always shocking to see how bears are treated here. For example, in the popular hotel 'Thethi Paradise' in Theth in Northern Albania, two bear cubs are used to entertain tourists. It must be assumed that the bears did not just appear at the hotel owners’ doorstep, but were illegally removed from the wild," explained FOUR PAWS wild animal expert Thomas Pietsch.

When the two male cubs are not used for entertainment purposes, they normally live in a small, barren shed. A similarly drastic situation is that of a young bear that appeared recently in the music video of a famous Albanian artist called Mozzik.

"A tragic fate is behind every sweet young bear. We assume that his mother was poached, and that the little bear has to live in species-inappropriate conditions now," Pietsch continued.

The suffering of these three bears is by no means isolated. Although 22 bears were saved in Albania last year, FOUR PAWS estimates that around 20 bears are still held in similarly bad conditions.

"Sadly, an end to the suffering is not yet in sight. The supply of young bears continues unabated. Only strict and consistent penalties for poachers, traders and owners will solve this issue," Pietsch commented.

Cooperation with the Albanian Ministry of Environment

In order to protect the bears in Albania sustainably, FOUR PAWS calls on the new government to introduce a clear legal prohibition on cruel keeping and to consistently enforce existing laws for the protection of bears in nature and captivity. In addition, the construction of a state-owned bear sanctuary must be provided.

The cooperation between FOUR PAWS and the Albanian Ministry of Environment has helped rescue many bears in the past. Some of them were taken to the FOUR PAWS project BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina in neighbouring Kosovo. Among others, chain-bear Pashuk, restaurant-bear Gjina and beer-bear Tomi have each found a species-appropriate home at the sanctuary. The selfie-bear Jeta, who was also rescued from Albania, was placed in the Bulgarian DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa.

"The collaboration with the government has yielded good results so far. Now we hope that the new Minister for Environment and Tourism will continue the successful partnership," concluded Pietsch.