Bear Mark behind bars

Dec 2022


Rescue Bear Mark

After 20 years in a tiny cage, Albania's last restaurant bear is finally free


For more than 20 years Mark never felt anything but cold, hard concrete under his paws. Being kept as a tourist attraction, he spent his days locked up in a tiny cage next to a restaurant in Tirana, Albania. Exposed to the looks of visitors, not able to display any natural behaviour, he must have suffered terribly.

After the owner agreed to hand bear Mark voluntarily to us, the preparations for the complex rescue started. Shortly before the rescue, a dedicated team started their trip to Albania.

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 been ended.

The rescue

Take a closer look at what happened during his journey

Stay tuned for more updates on bear Mark!

December 2022

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Finally home

Take a closer look at the wrap-up video of Mark's rescue and how he's spent his first days at BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach.

Bear Mark is exploring his new enclosure at BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach

The next steps for Mark

Mark is now settling into his forever home. At the sanctuary he will be provided with the urgently needed medical care and finally can start living the life he deserves!

Mark is having a nap in his transport crate before exploring his new enclosure

Welcome home, Mark

On Friday morning (9th December), the team arrived at BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach in Austria and was welcomed by a snowy landscape. Everyone was excited to see how Mark, who has been 'living' in a concrete cage for more than two decades, would react to his nature-like enclosure.
Then, the moment finally came and we opened the transport crate to his new home. Slowly Mark sat up, looking at the snow with big eyes. Sniffed the cold air. But he was too shy to leave his crate and he lay down again to take another nap. Finally, when Mark was confident enough, he slowly walked the first steps into his new home, looking at all the trees, bushes and snacks for him. It was an emotional moment for the whole team!

Bear Mark is being loading into the transport vehicle

A 44-hour journey

It took 8 people to carry Mark the long way to his transport crate. He weighs about 240kg! After carefully loading him into his transport crate, the team started their journey.
The team crossed seven countries and was on the road for 44 hours, always happy that Mark soon would start a new life. During the journey, Mark seemed to feel very comfortable, and he turned out to be a real gourmet: Even though he was offered a variety of vegetables, he just wanted to eat grapes!

Before the journey begins, Mark is being checked by the FOUR PAWS team

The vet check

The first vet check revealed, that years of inadequate keeping have left bear Mark in a poor condition. He has a very poor muscle condition and due to the increased pressure on his joints and a lack of movement, he suffers from painful arthrosis. He shows stereotyping behaviour due to boredom and stress, has broken teeth and infections. Besides that, Mark is severely overweight – a result of an unhealthy diet mainly consisting of bread.

Our vet is drafting Mark to prepare him for the check up and transport

Mark's big day

Finally, on Wednesday, the 7th of December Mark's big day had come. The team had to stick to a very strict time schedule. If Mark wouldn’t be ready for the journey at 10:30 am the latest, they wouldn’t make it over the first borders in time.
The veterinarian in charge sedated him and performed a short vet check. When Mark woke up from anaesthesia he was once again checked by our vet to ensure Mark's safety for the long transport.

Bear Mark in his tiny cage in Albania

A challenging rescue mission

Our dedicated team successfully overcame small challenges during the rescue. Mark's cage was never built for him to get out again, so it had to be cut open.
The priority of the mission was to keep the stress for Mark at a minimum and make sure he will have a save journey to BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach in Austria.

Cat that visits Bear Mark at his cage in Albania

Mark and the cats

Generally, Mark seems to have a really calm, friendly and relaxed personality. Due to his past, he was used of having humans around him. He observed the team curiously but wasn’t bothered by their presence at all. What really surprised us was his special friendship with the cats living at the restaurant – they even shared his species inappropriate food (bread) together.

Bear Mark's cage at a restaurant in Albania

Checking on Mark

On Monday 5th December, the team visited Mark in the restaurant in Tirana. The rescue was complex and needed a lot of planning in advance. His cage was so much smaller than it seems in the pictures and his paws never felt anything soft for more than 20 years.
Only once during the first meeting, Mark stood up and walked a couple of steps because he was fed.

Bear in a cage

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