22nd /23rd May 2013: Bear rescue in Kosovo


they were just a few weeks old. The owner Mr. Vezir Shehu, who claimed to have the Swiss citizenship and therefore should be immune, refused heavily to hand over the bears, so the Kosovan environmental authority under Mr Morina Rifat confiscated them, with the help of Kosovo Police.  It was quite difficult to transport these two bears (Ari more than 300 kg and Arina more than 200 kg) from this tiny cage on the first floor down to the transport cradle. FOUR PAWS did a great job, esp. under supervision of Dr. Franz Göritz, Leading Veterinarian from the Leibnitz Institute for Research on Zoo- and Wild Animals from Berin (Germany), specialized in these big species of animals. "The owner of the bears was not cooperative at all and the holding of the bears in a cage on the first floor without stairs represented quite a challenge for their evacuation. The bears could not be separated and needed to be sedated at the same time. It was thus crucial to get it right, otherwise running the risk that one of the bears might wake up early while the preparation for the second bear was still ongoing. Dealing with the sedation of big wild animals always implies residual risks. The narcotics went well and both bears could be transported safely to their new home, the  FOUR PAWS BEAR SANCTUARY in Pristina, where they live now.  


The first night they spent in the bear house and on May 23rd they were released into their new environment. It was such a special moment to observe Ari coming out of the bear house and checking the grass (he never ever had felt grass under his paws) and then having a bath in the new swimming pool for the bears. Arina followed after having received the OKAY of her male bear companion Ari and was also pleased to have, all of a sudden so much space.  In the near future all 15 bears  will have a 15 hectare plot around 20 km from Pristina. FOUR PAWS is currently constructing the big bear sanctuary, while the inner part has been finished just recently. An education center should also be built.  


On 23rd May 2013 two female bears from Germia Recreation Park near Pristina were also rescued. These two female bears are five years old and they had to live in a twelve metre cage outside Restaurant Freskia as attraction for the guests.  At least there the owner was cooperative. They also stayed one night in the bear house until they have been released on 24th May 2013 into their new open space. They are so happy now.  


The problem bear remains Kassandra, who has been rescued already on 16th March 2013 (pls. kindly refer later to my first film on YouTube “My first bear rescue together with my husband” . Kassandra is ten years old and was kept in an appalling little cage of six square metres in the woods outside a restaurant at the Dulje Pass around 30km south of Pristina. Kassandra suffered a miserable existence behind steel bars on damp, midlewed earth. She had no way of sheltering from storms, rain, frost or the sun. Nor could she hide away from the nosey stares and teasing of the restaurant customers. One year ago the owner closed the restaurant and simply abandoned her. Kassandra was starving, scared and in awful state. FOUR PAWS staff had been looking after her since summer 2012, bringing her food and water, without which she could never have survived. Also when her rescue took place, Kosovo environment authorities and Kosovo police had to help. Even though she lives there now for quite some time, only yesterday on 23rd of May she tried to go outside a bit longer and then Ari discovered her from the  neighbour plot and was very curious who is this new female. Equally astonished was Kassandra, never having seen another bear in her whole life.  Kassandra stayed at least half an hour outside before she went back to the bear house. So with her it might take a little while that she gets used to so much space.  


In March 2011, I informed the animal welfare organization FOUR PAWS after receiving an urgent request from KFOR VET Dr. Führschuss to help and to do something for these so called “Restaurant Bears”.  It made me very happy to observe these bear rescues in March/May 2013. These poor creatures had to live  under horrific conditions in very small cages next to restaurants. FOUR PAWS is helping here to improve the situation since summer 2012 and has now opened the FOUR PAWS SANCTUARY in Pristina.     We can report about a success story already, so far five bears have been rescued, but there are still 10 remaining who have to live under equally awful conditions. Since 2010 it has been illegal to keep bears privately in Kosovo, but up until now the staff of the Kosovan environmental authority in Pristina has had their hands tied. This is because bears living in captivity can no longer be released into the wild, and they had no species-appropriate facilities to accommodate them, so they were powerless to do anything against the illegal trade of keeping bears.  


Now the FOUR PAWS BEAR SANCTUARY is opened and in future we will see only laughing bears in Kosovo. These are great news that Kosovo is getting also in Animal Welfare one step closer to the EU.  


A big THANK YOU to all those who have made it possible, Minister for Environment Dardan Gashi, a very strong advocate amongst the Kosovar politicians, the Mayor of Pristina, Mr. Isa Mustafa, who provided the land, KFOR (COM KFOR General Halbauer, former COM KFOR General Bühler, Colonel Nau and his excellent team, Dr. Frederic Fuehrschuss, Hptm. Franke and many more), Arch.DI.Avdyl Cetaj (constructed the bear house) and last but certainly not least FOUR PAWS (Mrs.Ioana Dungler, project manager, Mr.Carsten Hertwig, bear project manager, Mr. Afrim Mahmuti (local Four Paws manager) and to Mr. Helmut Dungler, founder of FOUR PAWS and his excellent team (WEBpage: http://www.vier-pfoten.org/en) and all others who helped with this wonderful success story.  


A big THANK YOU also to the US Ambassador Tracey Jacobson and her husband Mr. David Baugh who were present at the release into freedom on 23rd May 2013 at the bear sanctuary and both showed so much interest in animal welfare and environment education. And THANK YOU to my wonderful husband, Ambassador Johann Brieger  - without him, my dream to help animals, in this particular case, to help the bears would not have been possible. Hopefully I haven’t forgotten to mention anybody, if I did, please forgive me and send me an e-mail and I will add you to the list.


Please kindly refer for more photos to the OeKG photo gallery:

http://www.oekg-ks.org/?cid=2,8,184  (Ari and Arina Mini Zoo Shqiponja in Prizren 22nd May 2013) http://www.oekg-ks.org/?cid=2,8,183   (Kassandra from Dulje Pass 16.March 2013)  

We are so pleased that this bear success story was also present in the media, enclosed you find a few links about the most positive reports so far:  



 RTK, Nachrichten 23.5.2013, 19:30h ab 27min:



International (Press):  

Umwelt Panorama:





AP: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/2-brown-bears-rescued-captivity-kosovo   

Huffingtonpost: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/23/brown-bears-kosovo_n_3325971.html  

Washington Post:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/energy-environment/kosovo-brown-bears-ari-and-arina-released-into-sanctuary-after-a-decade-held-captive-in-a-cage/2013/05/23/9fd6fde6-c3bb-11e2-9642-a56177f1cdf7_story.html#  





ORF (ab Minute 5 oder 6):


Kronen Zeitung:




Koha.net: http://www.koha.net/?page=1,8,146667  

Zeri.info: http://www.zeri.info/artikulli/6376/rina-ari-dhe-kasandra-te-lumtur-ne-strehimore  

Lajmi: http://www.lajmonline.com/sq/Kombetare/Arinjte-Rina-dhe-Ari-te-lumtur-ne-strehimore-24836  

Kosova Sot: http://www.kosova-sot.info/ekonomi/mmph-arinjte-rina-dhe-ari-te-lumtur-ne-strehimore  

Gazetaexpress: http://www.gazetaexpress.com/?cid=1,15,112463  



MTP alb, Mazedonien http://www.mtv.com.mk/al/al/kuriozitete/lifestyle/26372/arinjte_rina_dhe_ari,_te_lumtur_ne_strehimore.aspx


Here you can find our private experience with the first bear rescue in Kosovo (as mentioned before):


Please type it in manually, because if you copy the link or if we link it directly the film is not okay. We try to fix this problem. If you open this film via Windows Internet Explorer and not via google chrom it works proberly).