FOUR PAWS , the international animal welfare organization, is fighting to retrieve three lions from unsuitable conditions in Albania.
The lions had been rescued from the neglected Safari Park Zoo in Fier, Albania, previously deemed “Europe’s Worst Zoo,” and have been temporarily accommodated in the Tirana Zoo since October of 2018. Now Albanian authorities are blocking the transfer of the animals to a specialized facility operated by FOUR PAWS in the Netherlands, citing an ongoing lawsuit for damage to property initiated by the former owner of the animals.
However, the lions play no part in the lawsuit. FOUR PAWS was already allowed to transfer a three- legged bear, rescued from the same mission as the lions, to the organization’s German sanctuary at the beginning of April. In an attempt to save the three remaining lions, FOUR PAWS has initiated a protest against those responsible in the Albanian government.
“It is inexplicable to us why we cannot relocate lions Lenci, Bobby and Zhaku. The Albanian authorities cite a court case as the reason, but we know the lions are not the subject of this case. The animals have nothing to do with it. Otherwise we wouldn't have been able to bring bear Dushi to our bear sanctuary in Germany."
-Ioana Dungler, Director of the Wild Animals Department at FOUR PAWS and leader of the Safari Park Zoo rescue last year
Photos of the Safari Park Zoo animals had circulated across the globe and sparked international outrage. One image showed a lion with a severely infected eye and photos revealed many other emaciated animals. The images supported the media’s nicknames for the zoo, which they called “Europe’s Worst Zoo” and the “Zoo from Hell.”
The Albanian Ministry of Environment and Tourism decided to confiscate all wild animals and FOUR PAWS supported the authorities in their endeavours. In October, FOUR PAWS intervened to save 10 wild animals from the Safari Park Zoo. Veterinarians were able to provide medical first aid.
"We were happy to have had the support of the Albanian government during our original rescue and relocation of the animals, but now the government is unnecessarily prolonging the suffering of these innocent beings."
-Robert Ware, Executive Director of FOUR PAWS USA
The Albanian Ministry of Environment and Tourism and FOUR PAWS originally agreed the lions would be transferred to FOUR PAWS’ Big Cat Centre FELIDA in the Netherlands. There, the lions can receive urgent medical care and attention. However, the Albanian government has thwarted this plan.
All negotiations to date with Albanian authorities have not led to a concrete outcome. Again and again the departure date has been postponed and the latest date FOUR PAWS has been given for their final rescue and transfer is September. This is clearly too late.
“Our patience has come to an end. The lions are only suffering because of bureaucratic arbitrariness. We can offer them a species-appropriate life now. We expect the Albanian government to be a reliable partner and we hope they will respect their commitments made for these animals."
-Ioana Dungler, Director of the Wild Animals Department at FOUR PAWS and leader of the Safari Park Zoo rescue last year.
The rescued animals that had been brought to Tirana Zoo were only supposed to stay there as a stopover until their final journey to FOUR PAWS’ sanctuaries was clarified. On April 3rd, Dushi was allowed to leave and given her chance at a new life. But the lions are deprived of the same opportunity.
FOUR PAWS has launched an international petition urging the Albanian ministry to release the lions Bobby, Lenci, and Zhaku. You can sign and help make a difference by clicking here: https://help.four-paws.org/en-US/please-help-urge-albanian-ministry-let-lions-go