In December 2016, FOUR PAWS received an urgent request for help from the Albanian Veterinary Inspectorate. In a small mountain village, a young bear was said to be in imminent danger. The owner was no longer willing nor able to care for the animal.
When the FOUR PAWS team arrived, they found the bear chained in a small shack next to the owner’s house. He was very distressed, and in panic was trying to free himself from the tight chain. FOUR PAWS acted immediately and contacted Tirana Zoo, which was willing to take over the bear temporarily.
Riku, whose young life has been marked by suffering, was safely transferred on 3 May 2017 by a FOUR PAWS team to DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa, run by FOUR PAWS in cooperation with Fondation Brigitte Bardot. Due to international transport regulations, the journey went via Macedonia and Greece. This meant many hours on the road for one of Europe’s saddest bearsand the FOUR PAWS team. Finally, they arrived at Riku's new home in Bulgaria.
“Riku was first released into the indoor area of his enclosure. Once he had recovered from his long journey and got used to his new environment, we released him into the outdoor enclosure. Watching him experience his new home was a wonderful moment for all of us. He was so relaxed and peaceful! Our aim is to eventually socialise Riku with other bears. When we can start this process though, entirely depends on his character and behaviour.”
FOUR PAWS bear expert Carsten Hertwig
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Riku is no longer alone
Before we rescued Riku, he had spent years in chains locked in a small room. He had never lived with other bears. Now this has changed. For some time, our animal caretakers kept a watchful eye on him and Gabriela, who used to live in a Bulgarian circus. Their enclosures were situated next to each other and so the team decided to socialise them. The move was successful and we are delighted that the bears will now spend their lives together.
A step towards ending the private keeping of bears in Albania
In October 2019, with over 30 bears rescued from bad keeping over the past years and pressure from advocating and campaigning by several national and international NGOs incl. FOUR PAWS, Albania makes a big change to toughen measures against environmental crimes.
The 'Law on Wild Fauna Protection and Preservation' was amended and as result, a 'National Council on Wild Fauna' is to be established with the task to mainly monitor and contribute to the implementation of the new law. Although the law does not explicitly legally ban the keeping of bears in Albania, there and only very few bears remaining in bad keeping in Albania. For the remaining bears and other native wildlife species, there are plans by the Albanian government to establish a sanctuary close to Tirana.