A new life is about to begin for the brown bear Mark. Or rather, he is about to start a life worthy of the name, given that the 24-year-old animal has been vegetating for the last 20 on the concrete of a cage next to a restaurant in the Albanian capital Tirana. Mark is the last of the so-called “restaurant bears”, traditional attractions for the clientele of many Albanian establishments, although the practice meant mistreating these animals.
To save Mark, who spent two decades in a too small cage that did not allow him to implement natural behaviors for his species, is the Austrian association founded Vier Pfoten (literally four legs) which since 1988 has been involved in helping animals in difficult situations, organizing and carrying out special projects. In early December Mark will be transferred to the bear sanctuary of Arbesbach, in the Austrian district of Zwettl, managed by the same association. The path to recovery for him will be long, as Vier Pfoten’s spokesmen say, given that the situation he has lived in so far has been terrible: the cage is too small, no defense against the heat and bad weather, no place to retreat and protect himself from looks of the customers of the restaurant. And above all, no possibility of going into hibernation, a behavior which, on the other hand, is physiologically necessary for bears.
The bear is in rather precarious health conditions: “Mark is seriously overweight because he is fed absolutely unsuitable food and has limited freedom of movement – explains Sigrid Zederbauer, who manages the bear sanctuary in Lower Austria where the bear will be transferred has movement problems that will require clinical evaluation. His teeth are partially broken, probably because he constantly bites the steel bars of the cage, and his claws are very worn from always walking on concrete. As soon as he arrives in Arbesbach, we will immediately provide him with the necessary veterinary care and assistance so that he can recover.”
According to Vier Pfoten, bear farming is now also illegal in Albania, but the country lacks the facilities to accommodate them. In 2016, there were about thirty cases like Mark’s, but most of them, thanks to the intervention of animal rights organizations, were able to be saved and transferred to bear sanctuaries abroad. Now it’s finally Mark’s turn, waiting for him is the life in nature that every bear deserves.