Albanian police have forced open cages at a private zoo and removed 12 animals, including three lions and a bear, being kept in what were described as “hellish” conditions.
Police and conservation officials “pried open the main gate at the Safari Zoo Park in Mbrostar, 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of the capital, Tirana”, reports AP. The zoo “had been closed by owners after criticism emerged about the treatment of its animals”, the news agency adds.
The zoo was visited in July by workers from Four Paws, an international animal welfare charity, who then alerted authorities.
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Vets from the charity sedated 12 animals - three lions, a bear, a waterbuck, four deer, a fox, a zebra and a turtle - and transported them to Tirana’s public zoo.
“Living conditions for the animals in this zoo are absolutely horrible, it’s a hellish way of keeping animals,” Ioana Gabriela Dungler, of Four Paws, told AFP.
Four Paws spokesman Martin Bauer was quoted by The Washington Post as saying that it will try to relocate the animals to sanctuaries. “Three lions will go to our big cat center FELIDA in the Netherlands and the three-legged bear to our Bear Sanctuary Muritz in Germany,” he said.
They will also work on solutions to take the remaining animals to other places, but “only after the animals regain their health at Tirana zoo park, something which may take weeks”, says the Post.
“Lensi (one of the lions), had a serious eye infection and was at risk of going blind. He has happily been saved and is better, but they all need extra care in order to fully recover,” said Carsten Hertwing, another Four Paws worker, according to AFP.
The zoo’s owner, Petrit Osmani, who has been running the zoo for around 15 years, strongly opposed the raid.
“You don't have the right! These animals are my children, you are taking away my children!” he protested.
His lawyer, Elvis Sulejmani, told AP that the owner had filled out all the necessary documentation for the animals, and complained that authorities illegally took possession of the animals without a court verdict.
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