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FOUR PAWS campaign brings help to Europe’s saddest bears


Albanian Environment Ministry announces construction of a sanctuary for bears

Brussels/Albania, 15.09.2016  - Just a few months after the memorandum of understanding between the Albanian Environment Ministry and FOUR PAWS to save around 50 bears suffering in cruel captivity in Albania, the country’s Environment Ministry has now officially announced the construction of a sanctuary for bears in the National Park Mali Dajtit near Tirana. Environment Minister Lefter Koka wishes to get personally involved with this construction project and with ending the cruel keeping of bears in Albania. He says, “We have worked to identify a territory within the National Park Mali Dajtit Tirana to build a bear sanctuary. The project for this centre is finished on paper and now the project is in the fundraising phase in order to start building in 2017. It will eventually solve the problem of permanent housing for the bears held in captivity in Albania.” The Environment Minister expressed to FOUR PAWS his utmost commitment to addressing this phenomenon until its complete elimination, in close cooperation with FOUR PAWS and all other stakeholders, including the media.


FOUR PAWS already runs five bear sanctuaries of its own in five different countries to accommodate bears that have suffered in the past. The international animal welfare organisation will advise the Ministry on how their sanctuary should be built. By building a bear sanctuary, the Ministry and FOUR PAWS both hope to provide a permanent solution for all bears currently suffering in Albania. Carsten Hertwig, bears expert at FOUR PAWS, says, “We are delighted about this successful cooperation with the Environment Ministry, and are very happy to support these plans for construction. Alongside the creation of a sanctuary, we’d also like to see a clear, legal ban on the cruel practice of keeping bears in Albania so that the animals will never have to suffer again there. We’ve launched an online petition for this cause.”


The FOUR PAWS online petition (, to encourage the Albanian Minister for the Environment 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, has already been signed by over 100,000 people in just three weeks.


At the end of August, FOUR PAWS worked with the Albanian Environment Ministry to rescue two bears from appalling conditions and transfer them to Tirana Zoo, where they will be looked after temporarily:


Chain bear Pashuk

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. Vets had to operate straightaway, on site, to cut the chain out of his neck and treat the deep wound. The level of Pashuk’s suffering shocked the entire FOUR PAWS team there. Carsten Hertwig: “They put this tight chain around Pashuk’s neck when he was still young, and locked him in a cramped little cell. Even as he grew, no one ever took the chain off. I’ve seen a lot of bears suffering, but I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. Pashuk must have been in incredible pain.”


Beer bear Tomi

Tomi had to vegetate 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 teeth are broken and he has injuries to his upper body. FOUR PAWS and media reports have already spread his story internationally.


Both bears coped well with being transferred to Tirana Zoo. At the end of September, as soon as all Pashuk and Tomi’s papers are ready, FOUR PAWS will transfer both bears to their BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina (, where the bears will live in large, nature-like, open-air enclosures. They will be professionally cared for, and will be able to spend the rest of their days living as happy bears should.


On launching its campaign on 17 August 2016, FOUR PAWS published results of investigations exposing many cases of dreadful mistreatment of brown bears in Albania. Most were taken from the wild, where they were brutally torn away from their mothers, after the mothers had been killed. They vegetate, underfed and desolate, in cramped cages, or chained up next to restaurants, fuel stations or hotels, in order to attract customers and tourists. Tens of thousands of animal lovers around the world have expressed their anger at the situation.


FOUR PAWS is asking for donations to help rescue and re-house Albanian bears from cruel private keeping, atären .


Professional footage and printable photos of Pashuk and Tomi’s rescue are available on request, and may be published without charge.

© FOUR PAWS | Hazir Reka