Albania, 31.08.2016 – There’s hope for the saddest bears in Europe: on 17 August 2016 the international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS started a campaign to save the approximately 50 brown bears that are being illegally kept in cruel conditions of captivity in Albania. Following this, the Albanian Environment Ministry is now stepping in.
Yesterday, with the support of an expert team from FOUR PAWS, representatives of the Environment Ministry seized “beer bear” Tomi, who had been forced to live miserably on a diet of bread and beer in a filthy, damp concrete cage next to the toilets of a restaurant in Ulza, a village around 75 km north of Tirana. Two vets from the expert team implanted a microchip, vaccinated and examined the bear on site. Carsten Hertwig, bear expert at FOUR PAWS : “Tomi is in a very poor state. His teeth are badly damaged, and he has injuries to his upper body. It’s high time he was brought out of this horrible place. We are happy that the Albanian Environment Ministry is getting actively involved now. Their prompt action in confiscating Tomi is hopefully just the beginning, because there are still dozens of bears suffering in Albania in intolerable keeping conditions. And we need a long-term solution for all the bears in the country.”
After examining Tomi, the FOUR PAWS team and the ministry representatives took the mistreated bear to Tirana Zoo. He will spend just a few weeks here, before being transferred to FOUR PAWS’ BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina in Kosovo. Hertwig says, “We had to get Tomi to safety first. Now we’ve chipped him we can finalise the papers allowing him to be taken out of the country. As soon as we get approval, we will take him to Prishtina.” In our BEAR SANCTUARY, he’ll receive first-class medical care and be able to live a life fit for a bear, in a large enclosure providing a near-natural habitat with grass, trees, and activities to keep him busy.” Along with Tomi, two other bears should soon be transferred to Prishtina from their current dreadful captivity.
Last March FOUR PAWS and the Albanian Environment Ministry signed an agreement to work together to find a long-term and appropriate solution for the bears suffering in captivity in Albania. The Environment Ministry will now do everything in its power to end the bears’ misery as quickly as possible.
The Deputy Minister for the Environment, Kledi Xhaxhiu, was happy to welcome Tomi to Tirana Zoo: “We’re happy that FOUR PAWS is supporting us, and that Tirana Zoo will temporarily accommodate Tomi until he can be transferred to BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina. Our next step is to register all the other bears and confiscate those most urgently in need of help. And we are working on tightening up the legislation on keeping bears.”
As it launched its campaign two weeks ago, FOUR PAWS published research exposing many appalling cases of abuse and cruelty against Albanian brown bears, enraging thousands of animal lovers around the world. To ensure a sustainable solution for the bears, FOUR PAWS also started an online petition (www.savethesaddestbears.com), to encourage the Albanian Minister for the Environment, Lefter Koka, to enact a blanket ban on the cruel keeping of bears, and to more strictly enforce the existing legislation aimed at protecting wild animal populations. The petition has already been signed by over 50,000 people.