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Hope for the Saddest Bears in Europe

Two dramatic bear rescues launch campaign to save Albania’s captive bears


ALBANIA - AUGUST 31, 2016 New hope emerges for the saddest bears in Europe. Last week, FOUR PAWS, the international animal welfare organization, started a campaign to save the approximately 50 brown bears that are being illegally kept in cruel conditions in Albania.


For the Save the Saddest Bears campaign, FOUR PAWS used published research to expose 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 put forth an online petition urging the Albanian Ministry of Environment to implement and enforce a ban on the cruel keeping of bears.


There are an estimated to be 50 brown bears in captivity across Albania and between 180 to 250 brown bears currently living in the wild in Albania. Sadly, FOUR PAWS believes that the wild bear population is likely to become much smaller because of ongoing habitat destruction, hunting and poaching. The decline of the wild population of brown bears and the growth in cruel keeping of captive bears have continued despite the fact that both the trophy hunting of bears and the private ownership of wild bears for exhibition purposes and as pets were both made illegal in 2006!


Despite the current legislation, enforcement has been a large problem. Fortunately, the Albanian Ministry of Environment was eager to assist in recent days as FOUR PAWS save two such suffering bears.


Tomi and Pashuk


Yesterday, with the support of an expert team from FOUR PAWS, representatives from the Albanian Ministry of Environment seized Tomi, the “beer bear”, 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. Tomi was tranquilized to perform a health check-up, and was microchipped and vaccinated on site.


Carsten Hertwig, bear expert at FOUR PAWS explained, “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 Ministry of Environment 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 transported the bear to Tirana Zoo. He will spend just a few weeks there before being transferred to FOUR PAWS’ BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina in Kosovo.


Also yesterday, our team arrived just in time for Pashuk, another backyard bear living in a far-too-small cage, who was surprisingly still able to stand on his own. His health condition was undetermined before arriving. However, the chain that was placed around his neck years ago became embedded in his skin, creating an open wound. Our bear expert Carsten Hertwig was shocked as he explained, “I saw many suffering bears, but I have never seen anything like this. The chain was grown in so deeply that the skin had already grown over it. His owners had put Pashuk on the chain when he was still small, locked him in the shed and never removed the chain ever since.”


Like Tomi, Pashuk was examined and treated immediately. Our vets worked fast to check the bear’s vital signs and, while under anesthesia, they were able to cut the chain from Pushuk’s neck and treat the wound. Pashuk will also be transferred to Tirana Zoo temporarily, then moved to his permanint home at BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina.


FOUR PAWS is feeling encouraged by the recent participation of the Albanian Ministry of Environment in these two recent seizures and rescues. Fortunately for Tomi and Pashuk, their lives of misery, isolation and pain are over, yet there are other captive bears still suffering. We urge everyone moved by these stories to sign the petition, directed at Albania’s Minister of 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 and can be found at