Help for Bears in Albania

The cruel keeping of restaurant bears has been put to an end


When FOUR PAWS began its work in Albania in 2016, more than 30 bears were living a miserable existence cooped up in tiny cages next to restaurants or hotels where they were put on show to attract tourists. These inappropriate conditions were very stressful for the animals, both physically as mentally.

Joint achievements

In March 2016, FOUR PAWS signed a declaration of intent with the Albanian Environment Ministry with the goal of finding a permanent solution in line with animal welfare standards for the many Albanian bears living in captivity in catastrophic conditions. As a result, between 2016 and 2022 and in cooperation with the Albanian authorities and other animal welfare organisations, more than 30 bears were rescued and transferred to wildlife rescue centres abroad. Eleven of these bears today live in FOUR PAWS bear sanctuaries and partner projects in Kosovo, Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Bulgaria.

A major milestone for captive bears

In December 2022, FOUR PAWS rescued the last remaining restaurant bear named Mark who was kept in a tiny cage close to a restaurant in Tirana. The bear was kept there for more than 20 years. Exposed to the looks of visitors, not able to display any natural behaviour, he must have suffered terribly. Luckily, the bear has been handed over to FOUR PAWS voluntarily and was transferred to BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach in Austria where he arrived on 9th December 2022. The rescue of the last so-called 'restaurant bear' Mark highlights a significant milestone in FOUR PAWS' work in Albania. With the rescue of Mark, the sad chapter of Albania's restaurant bears is over and the cruel practice of keeping bears next to restaurants for entertaining has ended. This is another major milestone for wild animal welfare in Southeast Europe! In 2013, FOUR PAWS ended already the keeping of restaurant bears in neighbouring Kosovo.

Work in Albania continues

Still, the work of FOUR PAWS in Albania is not yet done, as there are reports about bears being found orphaned in the wild and ending up in illegal private keeping or being abused for other illicit activities every year. Also, in the past years there have been increasing reports about illegal keeping, breeding and trade of big cats in Albania and neighbouring countries. Therefore, FOUR PAWS will continue fighting for legislative improvements including a total ban on the private keeping of bears and big cats. Furthermore, FOUR PAWS calls upon the national authorities to finally establish a wild animal sanctuary on site in order to make law enforcement and the accommodation of seized and confiscated wild animals possible.


A new life for bears in Albania

Two new inhabitants at Arosa Bear Sanctuary, Switzerland


Rescue Bears Amelia & Meimo


FOUR PAWS rescues bears from a tiny cage in Albania


Rescue Bear Rocco


A new beginning for bear Dushi at our BEAR SANCTUARY Müritz


Rescue Bear Dushi


FOUR PAWS brings Albanian female bear Luna to safety


Rescue Bear Luna


Rescue mission bear Jeta


Rescue Bear Jeta


At last the former dancing bear can enjoy a peaceful life at BEAR SANCTUARY Belitsa


Rescue Bear Riku


WHAT FOUR PAWS has achieved in Albania so far:


September 2023

FOUR PAWS has been made aware that two wild-born bear cubs are being kept illegally on the premises of a hotel and restaurant in Albania. Despite FOUR PAWS’ immediate offer to help rescue the bears, the Albanian Ministry of Tourism and Environment fails to react in time and confiscate the animals. As a result, the cubs disappear from the private property. FOUR PAWS holds the Albanian Ministry of Tourism and Environment responsible for this sad incident, which could have been prevented.

Bear Mark in Albania

December 2022

FOUR PAWS rescues Mark, the last remaining Albanian restaurant bear that is kept in a tiny cage close to a restaurant in Tirana. After crossing seven countries, and 44 hours on road, the bear arrived safely at his new home, the BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach in Austria. At the sanctuary he will be provided with the urgently needed medical care and finally can start living the life he deserves!

Restaurant bear in Albania

September 2021

FOUR PAWS conducts a veterinary check of Mark, the last restaurant bear in Albania. It turns out that his overall health condition is poor, mainly because of the unsuitable keeping conditions. According to recommendations from the wildlife veterinarian, Mark should be relocated to a sanctuary for medical treatment, professional care, and recovery as soon as possible. 


November 2020

FOUR PAWS becomes official member of the newly established National Wildlife Council in Albania. The role of this council, comprising members of several national institutions and authorities as well as NGOs, is to act as consultative body for the Ministry of Tourism and Environment in Albania for wildlife management & conservation topics. In frame of its membership, FOUR PAWS will continue to push for better animal welfare in Albania and also advocate for legal improvements concerning the wildlife protection and conservation. 

Illegal wildlife trade in Albania is out of control

June 2020 

An investigation published by FOUR PAWS reveals that the illegal wildlife trade in Albania is out of control: More than 35 advertisements offering protected wild animals and exotic animals for sale were found on public Albanian online market portals! Furthermore several wild animals (including the highly rare Balkan lynx) were found killed and stuffed in restaurants. Following these findings, the Albanian Minister of Tourism and Environment, Mr. Blendi Klosi, expressed his resolve to take serious measures against illegal hunting and commercial wildlife trade. A. o. the Minister ordered the establishment of a special task force to which NGOs can report their concerns and suspected cases of wildlife crime. Also, he promised to bring up and discuss possible measures against wildlife trade on online market platforms with the relevant national authorities. Read more in our press release!

Restaurant Bear Investigation 2018

May 2020

Thanks to the efforts of several international animal welfare NGOs and sanctuaries in recent years, the number of #SaddestBears in Albania decreased significantly. Now there is only one bear left that is kept close to a restaurant in Tirana. In cooperation with Albanian authorities, FOUR PAWS will work on a solution for 'Albania’s last restaurant bear' and end this cruel exposure of bears for good!

Carsten and Albanian Minister of Tourism and Environment, Blendi Klosi

November 2019

FOUR PAWS handed over the feasibility analysis for an Albanian bear sanctuary & rescue centre to the Albanian Minister of Tourism and Environment, Blendi Klosi. It is task of the ministry now to realize and implement these plans in the foreseeable future. Of course FOUR PAWS will further monitor and support this process. For this purpose, also a new Memorandum of Understanding between the Albanian Ministry of Tourism and Environment and FOUR PAWS was signed, on the cooperation in the realization of long-term and sustainable solutions for the protection of wild fauna in Albania.

Bear in a cage

October 2019

Success: After years of advocating and campaigning from several national and international NGOs incl. FOUR PAWS Albania makes a big change to toughen measures against environmental crimes!The Criminal Code of the Albanian law has just been amended with a list of punishable offences for environmental crimes, which means that delicts such as killing, poaching or illegal trade of protected species can be sentenced to several years of prison now. Before now, such crimes were only punished with a low fine. Furthermore, the 'Law on wild fauna protection and preservation' was amended. As a result, a 'National Council on Wild Fauna' will be established whose task will be mainly to monitor and contribute to the implementation of the new law.

Rescue mission Rocco

June 2019

Rocco has arrived in BEAR SANCTUARY Mueritz. After a long journey, the rescued bear from Albania is finally at his new home.
A total ten bears rescued in Albania now live in the FOUR PAWS bear sanctuaries and partner projects in Kosovo, Germany, Switzerland and Bulgaria.

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April 2019

The three-legged bear Dushi rescued from illegal Safari Park Zoo Fier in Albania in October 2018, arrives at BEAR SANCTUARY Müritz in Germany. Shortly after her arrival at the sanctuary she already starts to explore her new natural environment.

Rescue mission Meimo and Amelia

February 2019

Meimo and Amelia, two of the last Albanian restaurant bears, find a new home at Arosa Bear Sanctuary.

Rescue mission Dushi

October 2018

Jointly with Albanian authorities, FOUR PAWS saves twelve wild animals, including three lions and a bear, from 'Europe's worst zoo' – the illegal Safari Zoo Park in Fier. The animals are provisionally sheltered in the capital at Tirana Zoo.

Bear at BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina

May 2018

On the occasion of the opening of the new environment education centre at BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina, the Albanian Ministry for Tourism and Environment again stresses its intention to build a bear and wildlife sanctuary near Tirana in cooperation with FOUR PAWS. 

January 2018

More than 25 bears have been rescued in cooperation with Albanian authorities and other animal welfare organisations and transferred to wildlife rescue centres abroad.

FOUR PAWS submits 424,691 signatures

November 2017

FOUR PAWS submits 424,691 signatures demanding a state ban on the cruel keeping of bears in Albania to the new Albanian minister of tourism and the environment.

August 2017

A total six bears rescued in Albania now live in FOUR PAWS bear sanctuaries in Kosovo, Germany and Bulgaria.

May 2017

FOUR PAWS transfers bear Riku to the BEAR SANCTUARY Belitsa. Until then, the bear had been held privately as a 'pet' in an Albanian mountain village. FOUR PAWS already freed Riku, who was kept chained up in a small hut, in December 2016.  

February 2017

FOUR PAWS becomes a member of the 'Save Albanian Bears' coalition. Together with other animal and environmental protection organisations, as well as state institutions, the coalition advocates ending the cruel keeping of bears in captivity in Albania.


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November 2016

FOUR PAWS saves two more bears from life in terrible conditions: 'amusement park bear' Luna and 'selfie' bear Jeta, who was kept in a small shed next to her owner's house.

August 2016

FOUR PAWS launches an online petition in order to draw attention to the suffering of the caged bears in Albania and appeals to the Albanian Environment Ministry to introduce legal amendments to protect these animals.   

August 2016

In cooperation with Albanian authorities, FOUR PAWS rescues three of Albania's saddest bears: 'restaurant bears' Tomi, Pashuk and Gjina. A month later, the three animals are transferred to BEAR SANCTUARY Prishtina.

Note: Any advertisements that may appear during the viewing of this video are unrelated to FOUR PAWS. We assume no liability for this content.

July 2016

The sad story of 'Tomi the beer bear', held in a small cage next to a restaurant in northern Albania, goes around the world.

March 2016

FOUR PAWS and the Albanian Ministry of Environment sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the aim of implementing a sustainable and animal welfare-orientated solution for the large number of suffering captive brown bears (more than 30 individuals) in Albania.

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