Protecting bears in Albania

Bears belong to Nature

Like this brown bear, many of this species spend their lives in captivity. © PPNEA

Preliminary estimates indicate that at least around 40 bears are living in captivity in Albania, where they are put on show in bars and restaurants. These illegal practices not only subject these animals to a great deal of suffering, but also have other far-reaching consequences. Nobody knows exactly how many brown bears there are at present in Albania. However, it may be fewer than 200 animals – a historic low. A considerable proportion of the total bear population spends its life in captivity, instead of roaming the forests and caring for the next generation of bears – with disastrous consequences.

Bermuda triangle for bears

The killing of female bears and removal of their young threatens the bear population in Albania with complete collapse. Furthermore this country plays a key role in the long-term survival of the brown bear in the western Balkans. Animals migrating from the Pindus Mountains in the south or from the northern Dinarides often disappear into thin air in Albania, with the result that the entire Dinarides-Pindus population reaching from Slovenia in the north to Greece in the south is at risk of slowly dying out.

Dangerous ignorance

International agreements give the brown bear protection and it is also on the red list of endangered species in Albania. Yet in practice almost no-one takes any notice of this. One of the biggest problems is a lack of awareness about the illegal nature and devastating consequences of these practices. Poor education, inadequate controls and insufficient sanctions are some of the main reasons why this sordid business with bears is able to continue.

What is being done by EuroNatur and its partners to protect bears in Albania?

  • Data about bears in captivity is being updated, illegal trapping methods reviewed and the principal areas where these are in use are being identified.
  • A campaign to raise awareness. We want to mobilise the civilian population and make it socially unacceptable for bears to be in bars and restaurants.
  • Large gaps in our knowledge about the current situation of Albania’s bear population are being filled. Whereas there is good data about the bear populations in the northern Dinarides and in the Pindus Mountains, there is still a blank on the map of bears in the southern Dinarides.

What we have already achieved – a selection of our major successes:

  • A thirty-minute video documentary about Bears in captivity plays an important role in the campaign to raise public awareness. This has already been broadcast by some of the relevant TV broadcasters in Albania and can be seen on YouTube. The first successful results can already been seen. Before the campaign started, captured bears were still a key part of the business model of a respected restaurant in Tirana. Now many customers only want to continue to visit the restaurant, if no more bears are put on show there.

Partners: PPNEA (Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania), Alertis

Funding: EuroNatur donations and sponsorships

Leaflet „Keine Bären in albanischen Bars!“ (German)

Download (2 MB)

Documentary “bears belong to nature” about bears in captivity on youTube

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