From: Alice Elizabeth Taylor
Two Albanian Bears Rescued from “Deplorable Conditions”

Four Paws, an international animal welfare organisation will take custody of two Albanian bears that are in urgent need of care, and a safe new home.

The Four Paws website states that the organisation “is a strong, global and independent voice for animals under direct human influence. Our vision is a world where people treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding.”

The two animals are currently living in “deplorable conditions” in a private zoo in Shkodra in the north of Albania. The two bears arrived at the mini zoo which is also a restaurant, when they were both cubs. As adults, they are now confined to small metal cages where their movement is severely restricted. The owner of the zoo stated that the animals came from the wild and their mother was the victim of a poacher, although how they ended up in the zoo is not known at this stage.

The owner of the family restaurant/zoo located on the outskirts of Shkodra, just below Rozafa Castle, stated he took the bears in because they wold not be able to survive on their own. The zoo which this journalist visited in September 2018 is also home to wild cats, an eagle, monkeys, and other large birds that are kept in squalid conditions. During my visit I also witnessed untreated wounds on the leg of one monkey that was in visible and audible distress.

Carsten Hertwig from Four Paws said in a statement:

“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.”

The owner of the zoo had reportedly been under increasing pressure from patrons and activists to close the zoo due to concerns over the animals living conditions.

“The cramped, inappropriate living conditions are very stressful for the animals, both physically and mentally. Many of them are in poor general condition,” said Fiona Miles, Four Paws country director.

In March 2016, Four Paws signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Albanian Ministry of the Environment with the aim of finding a sustainable and animal-friendly solution for the large number of Albanian bears living in unacceptably inhumane conditions. Since then, over 26 bears have been rescued and transferred to foreign wildlife sanctuaries including Four Paws sanctuaries in Germany, Kosovo and Bulgaria.

At the time of writing, Albania has no legal framework in place to deal with cruelty to or the mistreatment of animals, and there are no proper legal mechanisms in place to prosecute anyone that is found to have harmed an animal, or kept them in inhumane conditions.