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Happy ending for three of Europe’s saddest bears


FOUR PAWS gives mistreated Albanian bears a new life at its sanctuary in Kosovo

 

Sydney, 28.09.2016 – Animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS has joined forces with the Albanian Ministry of Environment to rescue three of “Europe’s saddest bears” from a life of suffering and given them a new life at the organisation’s specialist bear sanctuary in Kosovo.

 

The bears, from Albania, had spent their lives in appalling conditions in captivity. Tomi, who made headlines recently after footage emerged of him languishing outside a restaurant and being plied with beer, was among the rescued bears to make the journey from Albania to neighbouring Kosovo, where FOUR PAWS operates a state of the art facility, its BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina.

 

Another of the bears rescued was Gijna, who had been forced to drink up to 20 beers every day during her captive nightmare.  Pashuk, the third bear to make the journey, has become known as the “chain bear” because there had been a chain around his neck for so long that his skin had grown around it. All three bears had been vegetating in the most appalling conditions outside restaurants in Albania, but yesterday completed the life-changing journey to their new home, which they have already started to explore.

 

“All three bears coped really well with the transfer and are doing fine,” says FOUR PAWS wild animal expert Thomas Pietsch, who accompanied the bears during the transfer. “On arrival at our sanctuary, they quickly left the transport boxes, and started running around, exploring their new enclosures and eating fruits in the sun. From now on, they’ll be given the care they need in an appropriate environment, and will want for nothing.”

 

On Monday, a team of FOUR PAWS vets, wild animal experts and animal carers tranquilised and examined Tomi and Pashuk at the zoo in Tirana, where the two of them have been staying temporarily since they were confiscated a few weeks ago by the Albanian authorities, with the support of FOUR PAWS.

 

Meanwhile, a second FOUR PAWS team tranquilised and examined the third bear, Gijna, who was situated in Zerqan, a village in eastern Albania.

 

Previously, Tomi lived in a filthy concrete cell next to the toilets of a restaurant in Ulza, a village north of the Albanian capital Tirana. Tomi survived on a diet of bread and beer. His behaviour showed signs of severe distress and he had injuries to his upper body.

 

Pashuk was forced to suffer for many years in a dark cage next to a restaurant in south-western Albania. The iron chain around his neck was far too tight, and his own flesh had grown around it. When he was rescued in August, the vets had to immediately operate to cut the chain out of his neck and treat the deep wound. Female bear Gijna led a particularly miserable existence in a space of only six square metres next to a restaurant. The owner gave the emaciated bear as many as 20 bottles of beer to drink every day, in order to keep her docile.

 

FOUR PAWS staff brought the three bears to the organisation’s own BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina in Kosovo which is already home to 16 ex-restaurant bears from Kosovo itself.

 

Along with these bears, Tomi, Pashuk and Gijna will be professionally looked after in large, nature-like open-air enclosures, and will now be able to live the rest of their lives in an environment more in keeping with the requirements of a bear.

 

Yesterday, the three Albanian bears were able to leave their indoor containers and take their first tentative steps into their new open-air enclosures.

 

The Albanian Environment Minister, H.E. Mr. Lefter Koka, is delighted with the successful transfer of the three bears: “It’s wonderful that these bears have now found a species-appropriate home in BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina. Along with inspections, to eliminate this phenomenon inherited over more than two decades, we assure that the Ministry of Environment is doing the maximum to build a sheltering centre for brown bears that are kept in captivity in Albania. At the same time I want to emphasise that these types of practices which exploit bears have provided no benefits to the country’s tourism industry. On the contrary, the exposure of animals to the public gives a negative image of the country to tourists.” For several months now, H.E. Mr. Koka has been working hard to create the first ever Albanian bear sanctuary in Mali i Dajtit National Park, near Tirana.

 

Between 40 and 50 bears are still suffering in atrocious conditions in Albania. Thomas Pietsch: “Once again this summer, several cubs on chains were seen being dragged around Albanian beaches and tourist hotspots for people to take “selfies” with. Many people simply have no idea how much these animals suffer. Therefore, one of our aims is to work with the Albanian Ministry of Environment to raise awareness among bear owners, the Albanian people and all tourists about how abusive the situation is, and to change peoples’ thinking.”

 

As part of its campaign to save the Albanian bears, which started in August, FOUR PAWS has now launched a poster campaign across the country. The posters will tell the story of Europe’s saddest bears, and show how ending the cruel keeping of bears in Albania will help give the country a more positive image.

 


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