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Happy ending for three of Europe’s saddest bears


FOUR PAWS brings Tomi, Pashuk and Gjina from Albania to BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina

Brussels/Albania/Kosovo, 28.09.2016 - For three of the saddest bears in Europe, a long history of suffering now has a happy ending: ‘beer bears’ Tomi and Gina, and ‘chain bear’ Pashuk had been vegetating in the most appalling conditions outside restaurants in Albania, but on Monday they were transferred to BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina in Kosovo by the international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS, in collaboration with the Albanian Ministry of Environment. There, they started exploring their beautiful new home for the first time yesterday.


“All three bears coped with the transfer very well, and are fine”, says FOUR PAWS wild animal expert Thomas Pietsch, who accompanied the bears during the transfer. “They left quickly their inner boxes, ran curiously through their enclosures and ate fruits in the sun. From now on, they’ll want for nothing.”


On Monday, a FOUR PAWS team of vets, wild animal experts and animal carers tranquilised and examined beer bear Tomi and chain bear Pashuk at the zoo in Tirana. The bears have been staying at the zoo since the end of August after having been rescued from terrible conditions by the Albanian Ministry of Environment and FOUR PAWS. At the same time, a second FOUR PAWS team tranquilised and examined beer bear Gjina in Zerqan, a village in eastern Albania.


Before being rescued, Tomi lived in a filthy concrete cell next to the toilets of a restaurant in Ulza, a village around 75km north of Tirana, surviving on a diet of bread and beer. His behaviour was severely disturbed, 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 Levan 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 operate on site to cut the chain out of his neck and treat the deep wound. Female bear Gjina lead 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, to keep her docile.


FOUR PAWS staff brought the three bears in two animal ambulances to the organisation’s own BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina in Kosovo ( Along with 16 Kosovan ex-restaurant bears, they will be professionally looked after in large, nature-like open-air enclosures, and will be able to live out their lives as happy bears should.

Yesterday, the three Albanian bears were able to leave their indoor containers and take their first tentative steps in their 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 phenomena inherited in more than two decades, we assure that the Ministry of Environment is doing the maximum to built a sheltering center for brown bears that are kept in captivity in Albania. At the same time I want to emphasize that the Albanian tourism has no good, on the contrary, the exposure of animals to the public gives a negative image to tourism.” For several months now, H.E. Mr. Koka has been working hard for the creation of the first 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 have simply no idea how much they suffer. So 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 people’s 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.