Tomi the Albanian bear, better known as the world’s saddest bear, has finally been rescued from his cramped cell, in which he used to bite himself out of agonizing boredom.
A brown bear, Tomi was stolen from the wild to become a tourist attraction two years ago. Early on Tuesday, he was seized by the government and will now be transferred to a nature reserve.
The bear has been taken to Tirana Zoo, where he will be checked by vets and, once the paperwork is complete, he will travel across the border to the bear sanctuary in neighboring Kosovo.
Tomi, an Albanian brown bear, was stolen from his wilderness home to become a tourist attraction by a restaurant owner two years ago but was rescued yesterday morning.
Here is a video of Tomi in his cell:
And here are the highlights:
Carsten Hertwig, a bear expert at the Four Paws charity which planned the rescue with the Albanian Environment Ministry after public pressure, said:
Tomi is in a very poor state. His teeth are badly damaged, and he has injuries to his upper body. It’s high time he was brought out of this horrible place.
In our bear sanctuary, he’ll receive first-class veterinary care and be able to live a life fit for a bear, in a large enclosure providing a habitat much closer to his natural environment, with grass, trees, and activities to keep him busy.
The majestic creature, one of many bears suffering in Albania, was seized by the charity Four Paws and the Albanian government.
Tomi spent two years trapped in a tiny concrete prison after being taken from the wild to become a tourist attraction.
The bear was in clear distress and appeared to be self-harming before he was rescued from his cage at an Albanian restaurant where he was fed junk food and beer.
Tomi was “confiscated” early yesterday by the Albanian government in connection with the charity Four Paws.
Tomi was checked over by a vet during the rescue and then taken to Tirana Zoo, where he will spend a few weeks before being transferred to a bear sanctuary in Kosovo.
Albanian bears are often badly treated and while Tomi, pictured after the rescue, is now one of the lucky ones, many others remain in captivity.
Tomi the brown bear was kept locked up in a tiny cage in a run-down restaurant in the mountains of Albania where customers can watch him as they eat.
Diners flocked to see him in his “home”, which was no more than a filthy cage next to a restaurant in the scenic mountains 40 miles north of Albania’s capital Tirana.
The visitors took videos of Tomi on their phones, posed for selfies in front of him and some gave him sweets and other treats. The bear’s owner was known to give him beer.
Crowds flocked to see Tomi the brown bear in his “home” — a tiny cage next to a run-down restaurant in beautiful mountains 40 miles north of the Albanian capital Tirana.
They took videos of him on their smart-phones, posed for selfies, and if feeling kind gave him sweets, cake and crisps. His owner occasionally gave him beer to quench his thirst.
Sometimes he paced around his cage intensely, and then went into what appears to be a self-harming spasm — biting his limbs while shaking his head violently.
The man who runs the restaurant, who refuses to reveal his name, came up with his idea of taking the bear out of his natural habitat — in a bid to boost takings. He said he paid a vet to hunt Tomi down with a tranquilizer gun.
From his cage, which is full of litter including discarded crisps and sweets bags, he could hear birds singing and the sound of running water while chickens walked past him in the safe knowledge he can do them no harm.
Only about 250 brown bears remain at large in the poverty stricken country (in addition to the estimated 80 bears living in cages).
Later, as Tomi became distressed and chewed his limbs and shook his head, the owner said casually: “Sometimes he gets bored and does this. It’s quite usual.”
Zoologist Thomas Pietsch, of the London-based campaign group FOUR PAWS, said: “The bear shows a very strong behavioral disorder which is clear evidence of serious animal welfare deficits. This self-harming behavior is clearly compulsive and is a result of the extremely monotonous and confined living conditions.”
“In his small cage he is unable to express even the most basic natural behavior. In this environment he is not able to follow his natural instincts, has no opportunity to move properly, look for food, climb, dig or take a bath.”
“This situation is unbearable for the bear and totally unacceptable from an animal welfare perspective. Conditions such as these lead to extreme frustration for bears, which results in the strong behavioral disorder shown in the video.”
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