From Heartbreak to Happiness Story, More Than 20 Years in a Tiny cage, Albania’s Last Restaurant Bear is Finally Free

For more than 20 years Mark never felt anything but cold, hard concrete under his paws. Being kept as a tourist attraction, he spent his days locked up in a tiny cage next to a restaurant in Tirana, Albania. Exposed to the looks of visitors, not able to display any natural behaviour, he must have suffered terribly.

After the owner agreed to hand bear Mark voluntarily to us, the preparations for the complex rescue started. Shortly before the rescue, a dedicated team started their trip to Albania.

The rescue of the last so-called ‘restaurant bear’ Mark highlights a significant milestone in FOUR PAWS’ work in Albania. With the rescue of Mark, the sad chapter of Albania’s restaurant bears is over and the cruel practice of keeping bears next to restaurants for entertaining has been ended.



Mark’s journey to BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach

Take a closer look at what happened during his rescue and since his arrival in Austria


Stay tuned for more updates on bear Mark!




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Mark and the marten

The new camera at Mark’s enclosure captured this cute moment a couple of nights ago: A marten came close to Mark’s den to see if there are some leftovers. And as gentle and kind as Mark is he didn’t mind at all sharing his food. Back in Albania, Mark also had a furry friend who came to visit him regularly: the restaurant cat. Due to the enclosure camera, we were not only able to witness this lovely encounter but also can watch Mark closer without disturbing him. He still spends his time in his den, but he is eating, and getting up to move around, and he starts playing with the straw.


Slowly settling in

Since his medical check mid of January, Mark has been given medicine and supplements for gastritis, which he was diagnosed with during the examination. He started to be more active in his den and ate some fruits his caretakers prepared for him. But since the winter is back in Arbesbach, he is now curled up in his comfortable den and maybe started the first hibernation of his life.The new world with trees, grass, snow and the smell of other bears are still overwhelming for him. And of course, he will get all the time he needs to adapt and the best care we can provide for him.


First big vet check

After a couple of weeks of settling in and adjusting to his new life at BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach, our dedicated team decided that it was time to have Mark thoroughly checked.The vet check revealed that Mark suffers from gastritis, which we are trying to handle with medication. As we had expected, he has arthritis in his knees, although not as bad as we had feared, as well as teeth issues. Unfortunately, Mark has shown some modifications on liver, prostate, and testicles. Ultrasound pictures of this check will now have to be assessed and we are hopeful that we will soon know more.Of course, we hoped for better results, but decades of subpar and inappropriate keeping conditions have unfortunately left their toll on poor Mark. We promise you that we and our committed team at BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach will do everything in our power to help him and ensure that he is not in pain.




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Finally home

Take a closer look at the wrap-up video of Mark’s rescue and how he’s spent his first days at BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach.

The next steps for Mark

Mark is now settling into his forever home. At the sanctuary he will be provided with the urgently needed medical care and finally can start living the life he deserves!

Welcome home, Mark

On Friday morning (9th December), the team arrived at BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach in Austria and was welcomed by a snowy landscape. Everyone was excited to see how Mark, who has been ‘living’ in a concrete cage for more than two decades, would react to his nature-like enclosure.Then, the moment finally came and we opened the transport crate to his new home. Slowly Mark sat up, looking at the snow with big eyes. Sniffed the cold air. But he was too shy to leave his crate and he lay down again to take another nap. Finally, when Mark was confident enough, he slowly walked the first steps into his new home, looking at all the trees, bushes and snacks for him. It was an emotional moment for the whole team!

A 44-hour journey

It took 8 people to carry Mark the long way to his transport crate. He weighs about 240kg! After carefully loading him into his transport crate, the team started their journey.The team crossed seven countries and was on the road for 44 hours, always happy that Mark soon would start a new life. During the journey, Mark seemed to feel very comfortable, and he turned out to be a real gourmet: Even though he was offered a variety of vegetables, he just wanted to eat grapes!

The vet check

The first vet check revealed, that years of inadequate keeping have left bear Mark in a poor condition. He has a very poor muscle condition and due to the increased pressure on his joints and a lack of movement, he suffers from painful arthrosis. He shows stereotyping behaviour due to boredom and stress, has broken teeth and infections. Besides that, Mark is severely overweight – a result of an unhealthy diet mainly consisting of bread.

Mark’s big day

Finally, on Wednesday, the 7th of December Mark’s big day had come. The team had to stick to a very strict time schedule. If Mark wouldn’t be ready for the journey at 10:30 am the latest, they wouldn’t make it over the first borders in time.The veterinarian in charge sedated him and performed a short vet check. When Mark woke up from anaesthesia he was once again checked by our vet to ensure Mark’s safety for the long transport.

A challenging rescue mission

Our dedicated team successfully overcame small challenges during the rescue. Mark’s cage was never built for him to get out again, so it had to be cut open.The priority of the mission was to keep the stress for Mark at a minimum and make sure he will have a save journey to BEAR SANCTUARY Arbesbach in Austria.

Mark and the cats

Generally, Mark seems to have a really calm, friendly and relaxed personality. Due to his past, he was used of having humans around him. He observed the team curiously but wasn’t bothered by their presence at all. What really surprised us was his special friendship with the cats living at the restaurant – they even shared his species inappropriate food (bread) together.

Checking on Mark

On Monday 5th December, the team visited Mark in the restaurant in Tirana. The rescue was complex and needed a lot of planning in advance. His cage was so much smaller than it seems in the pictures and his paws never felt anything soft for more than 20 years.Only once during the first meeting, Mark stood up and walked a couple of steps because he was fed.