When FOUR PAWS began its work in Albania in 2016, more than 30 bears were living a miserable existence cooped up in tiny cages next to restaurants or hotels where they were put on show to attract tourists. These inappropriate conditions were very stressful for the animals, both physically as mentally.
In March 2016, FOUR PAWS signed a declaration of intent with the Albanian Ministry of Environment. The goal was to find a permanent solution in line with animal welfare standards of the many Albanian bears living in captivity in catastrophic conditions.
Since 2016, more then 30 bears have been rescued in cooperation with the Albanian authorities and other animal welfare organizations. These saved bears have been transferred to wildlife rescue centers across Europe. Eleven of these bears live in FOUR PAWS' bear sanctuaries and partner projects in Kosovo, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Bulgaria.
A major milestone for captive bears
In December 2022, FOUR PAWS rescued the last remaining restaurant bear named Mark who was kept in a tiny cage close to a restaurant in Tirana. The bear was kept there for more than 20 years. Exposed to the looks of visitors, not able to display any natural behaviour, he must have suffered terribly. Luckily, the bear has been handed over to FOUR PAWS voluntarily and was transferred to BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach in Austria where he arrived on 9th December 2022. The rescue of the last so-called 'restaurant bear' Mark highlights a significant milestone in FOUR PAWS' work in Albania. With the rescue of Mark, the sad chapter of Albania's restaurant bears is over and the cruel practice of keeping bears next to restaurants for entertaining has ended. This is another major milestone for wild animal welfare in Southeast Europe! In 2013, FOUR PAWS ended already the keeping of restaurant bears in neighboring Kosovo.
Work in Albania continues
Still, the work of FOUR PAWS in Albania is not yet done, as there are reports about bears being found orphaned in the wild and ending up in illegal private keeping or being abused for other illicit activities every year. Also, in the past years there have been increasing reports about illegal keeping, breeding and trade of big cats in Albania and neighbouring countries. Therefore, FOUR PAWS will continue fighting for legislative improvements including a total ban on the private keeping of bears and big cats. Furthermore, FOUR PAWS calls upon the national authorities to finally establish a wild animal sanctuary on site in order to make law enforcement and the accommodation of seized and confiscated wild animals possible.
FOUR PAWS rescues Mark, the last remaining Albanian restaurant bear that is kept in a tiny cage close to a restaurant in Tirana. After crossing seven countries, and 44 hours on road, the bear arrived safely at his new home, the BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach in Austria. At the sanctuary he will be provided with the urgently needed medical care and finally can start living the life he deserves!
FOUR PAWS conducts a veterinary check of Mark, the last restaurant bear in Albania. It turns out that his overall health condition is poor, mainly because of the unsuitable keeping conditions. According to recommendations from the wildlife veterinarian, Mark should be relocated to a sanctuary for medical treatment, professional care, and recovery as soon as possible.
FOUR PAWS becomes official member of the newly established National Wildlife Council in Albania. The role of this council, comprising members of several national institutions and authorities as well as NGOs, is to act as consultative body for the Ministry of Tourism and Environment in Albania for wildlife management & conservation topics. In frame of its membership, FOUR PAWS will continue to push for better animal welfare in Albania and also advocate for legal improvements concerning the wildlife protection and conservation.
An investigation published by FOUR PAWS reveals that the illegal wildlife trade in Albania is out of control: More than 35 advertisements offering protected wild animals and exotic animals for sale were found on public Albanian online market portals! Furthermore several wild animals (including the highly rare Balkan lynx) were found killed and stuffed in restaurants. Following these findings, the Albanian Minister of Tourism and Environment, Mr. Blendi Klosi, expressed his resolve to take serious measures against illegal hunting and commercial wildlife trade. A. o. the Minister ordered the establishment of a special task force to which NGOs can report their concerns and suspected cases of wildlife crime. Also, he promised to bring up and discuss possible measures against wildlife trade on online market platforms with the relevant national authorities. Read more in our press release!
Thanks to the efforts of several international animal welfare NGOs and sanctuaries in recent years, the number of #SaddestBears in Albania decreased significantly. Now there is only one bear left that is kept close to a restaurant in Tirana. In cooperation with Albanian authorities, FOUR PAWS will work on a solution for 'Albania’s last restaurant bear' and end this cruel exposure of bears for good!
FOUR PAWS handed over the feasibility analysis for an Albanian bear sanctuary & rescue centre to the Albanian Minister of Tourism and Environment, Blendi Klosi. It is task of the ministry now to realize and implement these plans in the foreseeable future. Of course FOUR PAWS will further monitor and support this process. For this purpose, also a new Memorandum of Understanding between the Albanian Ministry of Tourism and Environment and FOUR PAWS was signed, on the cooperation in the realization of long-term and sustainable solutions for the protection of wild fauna in Albania.
Success: After years of advocating and campaigning from several national and international NGOs incl. FOUR PAWS Albania makes a big change to toughen measures against environmental crimes!The Criminal Code of the Albanian law has just been amended with a list of punishable offences for environmental crimes, which means that delicts such as killing, poaching or illegal trade of protected species can be sentenced to several years of prison now. Before now, such crimes were only punished with a low fine. Furthermore, the 'Law on wild fauna protection and preservation' was amended. As a result, a 'National Council on Wild Fauna' will be established whose task will be mainly to monitor and contribute to the implementation of the new law.
Rocco has arrived in BEAR SANCTUARY Mueritz. After a long journey, the rescued bear from Albania is finally at his new home.
Together with the Albanian authorities, FOUR PAWS saves 12 wild animals, including three lions and a bear, from 'Europe's worst zoo' – the illegal Safari Zoo Park in Fier. The animals are temporarily sheltered in the capital at Tirana Zoo.
BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina opens its new environment education center. The Albanian Ministry for Tourism and Environment again stresses its intention to build a bear and wildlife sanctuary near Tirana in cooperation with FOUR PAWS.
More than 25 bears have been rescued in cooperation with Albanian authorities and other animal welfare organizations. These animals are transferred to wildlife rescue centers abroad.
FOUR PAWS submits 424,691 signatures demanding a state ban on the cruel keeping of bears in Albania to the new Albanian minister of tourism and the environment.
A total of six bears rescued in Albania live in FOUR PAWS' bear sanctuaries in Kosovo, Germany and Bulgaria.
FOUR PAWS transfers bear Riku to DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa. Previously, Riku was kept as a 'pet' in an Albanian mountain village. FOUR PAWS had freed Riku, who was kept chained in a small hut, in December 2016.
FOUR PAWS becomes a member of the 'Save Albanian Bears' coalition. Together, animal and environmental protection organizations and state institutions advocate to end the cruel keeping of bears in captivity in Albania.
FOUR PAWS rescues two bears from life in terrible conditions: 'amusement park bear' Luna and 'selfie' bear Jeta, who was kept in a small shed next to her owner's house.
FOUR PAWS launches an online petition in order to draw attention to the suffering of the caged bears in Albania. The petition appeals to the Albanian Ministry of Environment to introduce legal amendments to protect animals.
In cooperation with Albanian authorities, FOUR PAWS rescues three of Albania's saddest bears: 'restaurant bears' Tomi, Pashuk and Gjina. A month later the three animals are transferred to BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina.
The sad story of 'Tomi the beer bear', who was held captive in a small cage next to a restaurant, goes viral around the world.
FOUR PAWS signs a declaration of intent with the Albanian Ministry of Environment with the joint goal of finding a permanent solution in line with animal welfare standards for many Albanian bears living in captivity in catastrophic conditions.