Kosovo bears saved from captivity


Lani Fouché

Bloemfontein – "In the new fifteen-hectare BEAR SANCTUARY, which FOUR PAWS is currently building, all fifteen restaurant bears still suffering in captivity should have been given a beautiful, species-appropriate new home in huge enclosures closely resembling their natural environment. Five of the fifteen restaurant bears have already recently moved in there," said Four Paws in a statement.

However, a dramatic turn of events has forced the organisation to act extremely quickly: On Wednesday 22nd May 2013 the Environment Ministry, together with the FOUR PAWS team, seized two bears from a mini zoo outside a restaurant in Prizren and transferred them to the BEAR SANCTUARY. But while this was happening, the two restaurant bears Rambo and Luta, leading a miserable existence outside a supermarket in Mitrovica, were killed by unscrupulous animal dealers. Their owner had sold the bears a week ago to the animal dealers for €500.

“We have to assume that Rambo and Luta’s owner had sold them to the animal dealers because he knew that they were about to be confiscated”, says Heli Dungler, founder and president of FOUR PAWS. “This horrendous act forced us to move lightning fast, as we now feared for the lives of the remaining eight restaurant bears. Although the construction of the BEAR SANCTUARY isn’t finished yet, we’ve now taken all eight bears into our care.”

On Saturday, the FOUR PAWS emergency rescue team and the Environment Ministry seized two young male bears, Arusha and Balusha, from a dark concrete cage outside the Gryka hotel-restaurant in the Rugova Valley near Peja in western Kosovo. Especially the smaller bear Balusha is in an extremely bad condition. He lost one eye in a fight with his fellow bear and on the other eye he is nearly blind. Afterwards, the team also freed a fifteen-month-old female bear, far too small for her age that lived in a tiny shed next to the Anika restaurant in Peja. The veterinarians had to put her on a drip before starting the one hour trip in the mobile animal clinic to the BEAR SANCTUARY.

"All thirteen restaurant bears are doing well, and are currently being housed in adaptation enclosures of several hundred square metres. The construction of the big outdoor enclosures will start soon so that the 13 bears can move to a large, species appropriate area of several hectares in October," said Miles.