Two of Europe’s saddest bears rescued
FOUR PAWS brings Albanian bears Luna and Jeta to safety
Brussels/Albania, 17.11.2016 For amusement bear Luna and selfie bear Jeta – two of Europe’s saddest bears, forced to spend miserable years in captivity in Albania – the suffering is over at last. On Tuesday and Wednesday, a team from international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS, in cooperation with the Albanian Environment Ministry and local authorities, succeeded in rescuing the two bears and transferring them to Tirana Zoo. Luna and Jeta will spend the winter there, with proper food and medical care. Next spring, they will move into their permanent new home, BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina in Kosovo, which is run by FOUR PAWS. Thomas Pietsch, one of the organisation’s wild animal experts, says, “We wish to thank the Albanian Environment Ministry and the local authorities for actively supporting the rescue of Luna and Jeta. Both bears have arrived safely and well at Tirana Zoo. Over the next few months their keepers, in consultation with FOUR PAWS, will look after them and nurse them back to health.”
Amusement bear Luna
Luna, a three to four-year-old female, lived in a tiny, filthy cage in the Aulona amusement park in Vlore in southern Albania. She was constantly exposed to the elements, and deafening noise from music, visitors and the rides at the park. On Tuesday, in the presence of the police and the local veterinary inspector, the FOUR PAWS team was able to tranquillise the bear, examine her, fit her with a microchip, and take her in an animal ambulance to the zoo at Tirana. She had already been formally seized by the Albanian authorities a short while previously, but the owner took a lot of persuading to finally allow her to be taken over.
Selfie bear Jeta
Jeta, a female around 15 years old, spent years being led by her owner in the torrid summer heat, with a chain attached to a ring through her nose. She was led all over Albania’s beaches, towns and tourist spots, for people to take selfies with her for a small payment. Every tug of the chain caused her great pain. Whenever she wasn’t working, she lived a miserable life on a bare concrete floor, chained in a dark shed outside her owner’s house in Korca. On Wednesday, the Albanian authorities helped the FOUR PAWS veterinary team unshackle her. The team tranquillised the bear, fitted her with a microchip, removed her nose ring, and examined her. They found that the almost toothless bear has several raw and bleeding holes in her nose, is undernourished, and is suffering from a disease of the eyes. But despite her weakened state, Jeta was able to make the trip to the zoo at Tirana.
In the spring of 2017, as soon as the new enclosures at BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina in Kosovo are completed (http://www.vier-pfoten.de/projekte/baeren/baerenwald-prishtina/ ), FOUR PAWS will transfer Luna and Jeta to the sanctuary. There, along with 16 former restaurant bears rescued within Kosovo and the 3 bears FOUR PAWS has already rescued from Albania this year – Tomi, Pashuk and Gjina – they will be professionally cared for in large, nature-like open-air enclosures, where they will be able to live out their lives as happy bears should.
“We are delighted that Luna and Jeta no longer have to suffer. But we haven’t achieved all our goals yet, because there are still around 40 to 50 bears vegetating in appalling conditions in Albania”, explains Pietsch. “So we are hoping that the Albanian Environment Ministry will go ahead with building a sanctuary for bears in the National Park Mali Dajtit near Tirana as quickly as possible, as was announced in September. FOUR PAWS is very willing to advise the Ministry regarding planning and construction.”
Along with the sanctuary, a long-term solution for all bears in Albania will also require the consistent application of existing laws and the ban on the private keeping of bears. FOUR PAWS launched an online petition in August (www.savethesaddestbears.com), which has already been signed by almost a quarter of a million people around the world. The petition aims to further encourage the Albanian Environment Minister, Lefter Koka, to improve protection measures for bears in the wild and in captivity.
Photos and professional footage of Luna and Jeta’s rescue are available free of charge.