Captive Bear Issues
In Albania you can still find extensive biological and ecological habitats where the Brown Bear (Ursus Arctos) still inhabits. It is important to emphasize that this population is part of the Alps and Dinaric-Pindus Mountain Range, which represents a territorial integrity not only for Brown Bear but also for other large carnivores like the wolf and the lynx.
However, from the 1990s the records show that the brown bear population in Albania is decreasing mainly because of habitat degradation and other human related activities. More specifically, one of the most threatening factors is illegal capturing of bear cubs. Even though, the country has ratified various international Conventions and has a national legal framework according to which it is totally forbidden to hunt brown bears and subsequently to keep them in captivity, in many restaurants, cafés and other public spaces you can notice bears being held in cages or stuffed bears.
This alarming situation was also the starting point of the research project “ Illegal capturing and keeping of brown bears in Albania- motivators, actors and potential solutions.” The aim of the project was to investigate the illegal capturing of brown bears (Ursus Arctos) and their trade for human entertainment purposes in Albania. The leading issue was to understand how the system of capturing, trading and exchibiting of brown bears in Albania works and to uncover the complexities and reasons behind this phenomenon.
For this purpose local surveys and a Rapid Rural Assessment was conducted in bear distribution areas from May until September 2012. The first phase of the research study surveyed visitors or customers in restaurants who held bears in captivity for entertainment purposes and owners of these kind of restaurants. In the second phase of the research, a Rapid Rural Assessment was undertaken, where hunters, people who had had damages from bears, and other local people were interviewed.
The data collected from the research phase are going to be analyzed and afterwards presented in a workshop, and sent to the respective authorities in order to raise awareness and ring the alarm bell about the apathy and negligence around this issue.