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Meet Mark the Albanian brown bear, kept in a cage for 20 years, now in an Austrian sanctuary

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Meet Mark the Albanian brown bear, kept in a cage for 20 years, now in an Austrian sanctuary

Both bears were brought to the restaurant as cubs 20 years ago after their mother was shot dead, according to its then owners.

They lived in poor conditions in the 100 square metre (1,075 square feet) cage, which had a concrete floor, with an inadequate diet, said Sajmir Shehu, Four Paws project coordinator in Albania.

Left out in the open and at the mercy of extreme weather the bears were never allowed to hibernate, said Four Paws.

After more than two decades entertaining guests from his cage at an Albanian restaurant, brown bear Mark, seen here on December 3, is heading towards a better life in an Austrian sanctuary. Photo: AFP

After more than two decades entertaining guests from his cage at an Albanian restaurant, brown bear Mark, seen here on December 3, is heading towards a better life in an Austrian sanctuary. Photo: AFP

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Now Mark, at 250kg (550 pounds) is overweight and has difficulties moving. Due to boredom and stress he has developed anxiety disorders, becoming aggressive and growling at the slightest noise. His condition worsened when Liza died.

“Mark couldn’t stop crying for two or three months,” Hiqmet Murati, the bears’ keeper for 20 years, told AFP.

The owners even let the pair mate, but none of the cubs survived because their stressed-out parents bit them to death, he added.

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As a result of his ill-treatment, the bear needs emergency care to survive, said Shehu.

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He suffers from joint, muscle, eye and organ problems, said the Four Paws expert.

Animal welfare activists begin moving Mark, under heavy anaesthetic, from his cage on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

Animal welfare activists begin moving Mark, under heavy anaesthetic, from his cage on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

Once in the sanctuary, Mark will get the veterinary care and proper food he needs “so he can recover quickly and enjoy a life worthy of a bear”, said Shehu.

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The creature’s plight is not the only case Four Paws has had to deal with, said Shehu, a biodiversity expert. Mark is the 34th wild animal the organisation has helped to move out of Albania, he said.

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“Urgent action is also needed against the growing illegal wildlife trade in the country,” said Four Paws coordinator Magdalena Scherk-Trettin.

The Albanian authorities say they are considering opening a sanctuary for confiscated wild animals.

Sajmir Shehu from the animal welfare group Four Paws checks on Mark on December 3, a few days before the animal’s journey to Austria began. Photo: AFP

Sajmir Shehu from the animal welfare group Four Paws checks on Mark on December 3, a few days before the animal’s journey to Austria began. Photo: AFP

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Four Paws says Mark is the last of Albania’s so-called “restaurant bears”.

But it added in a statement: “While Mark’s rescue is a significant milestone, bears in Albania are still in danger of being abused as pets or tourist attractions in the future without a change in legislation.”

Big cats were being traded illegally too and suffering from poor treatment from private owners, it added.

The restaurant will be removing the cage that held the bears – but will keep its name.

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The news is published by EMEA Tribune & SCMP210520-twitter-verified-cs-70cdee.jpg (1500×750)

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