Tirana, 25 March 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Edison Kurani
A large number of bears in Albania suffer terrible conditions of captivity facing abusive practices by individuals or private companies that use them for gaining purposes.
All bears that are held in private conditions in Albania have been captured illegally from their illegal habitats when they were still cubs. This is the reason why bears in the wild run the risk of extinction. Currently there are no more than 250 bears in the wild.
Grizzly bears who live in the wild in Albania, are now protected by law. But violations are common and they are not prosecuted. Even when offenders are caught, they are given a very small fine.
The majority of bears that are held in private conditions are exploited for purposes of gain or entertainment: In cages or chained, they live near hotels, restaurants or private courtyards.
During the summer, they also serve as “photo bears” for tourists in beaches or in the pedestrian area. Bears often have a chain attached to their nose in order for their owners to lead them wherever they want.
What’s more, there are no available official data about the current number of bears that are held in captivity and the state is unable to shelter animals caught in the wild which are being kept in terrible conditions.
Situation is expected to change
Currently in Albania, there are around 80 bears that live in miserable captivity conditions. But this situation is soon expected to improve.
Minister of Environment, Lefter Koka admits the situation and promises to change it: “We want to focus in putting an end to the cruelest forms that bears are facing in Albania. There are many bears who are ill treated in order to offer entertainment to tourists, such as holding them in very small cages in restaurants, beaches or other tourist locations. We want to improve the image of Albania as a responsible tourist destination, where cruelty against animals is prohibited by law”, says Mr. Koka.
Along with the founder of the world organization “Four Paws”, Heli Dungler, the Albanian Minster of Environment, Lefter Koka signed a memorandum of cooperation. Both sides will work together for a sustainable solution for grizzly bears, where the majority of them are given bad treatment for material gains and purposes of entertainment.
Heli Dungler admits that Four Paws’ experience will not be spared. “With our long experience, we are hoping to improve the situation with bears in Albania. Our long-term purpose is to put an end to the cruel form of keeping bears in private conditions. This was successfully achieved in Kosovo”.
In fact, the private holding of bears in Kosovo ended three years ago. In contrast to Albania, where many bears are kept in cages 3-4 square meters big, in Pristina, 16 bears live in an area of 5 hectares.
Mr. Dungler offers details on the measures that will be taken for bears in Albania. “The first step that will be taken relates to the increase of punitive measures. Meanwhile, grizzly bears held in captivity will be registered a concept will be developed for their shelter center. What’s more, the current law for the protection of the domestic faune will be changed in a way that will stop all forms of cruel captivity”. /ibna/
Copyright photos Albanian bears: © Four Paws | Hazir Reka