Animal cruelty, logging continue to challenge moratoriums, watchdog unveils

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 11, 2017 12:54

Story Highlights

  • Environmental watchdogs have identified 25 cases of abuse during the past year, mainly related to illegal hunting and logging and animals held in captivity, also taking place in protected areas. Dozens of other unreported cases are estimated to have taken place as a considerable number of abuses were advertised as trophies on social networks by perpetrators themselves, apparently unaware of the legal consequences that include heavy fines and even imprisonment.

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Golden eagle caught in Albania. Photo: PPNEA

TIRANA, Oct. 11 – Illegal logging and animal abuse continues despite moratoriums in place to protect Albania’s declining forest areas and endangered fauna species.

Environmental watchdogs have identified 25 cases of abuse during the past year, mainly related to illegal hunting and logging and animals held in captivity, also taking place in protected areas. Dozens of other unreported cases are estimated to have taken place as a considerable number of abuses were advertised as trophies on social networks by perpetrators themselves, apparently unaware of the legal consequences that include heavy fines and even imprisonment.

Brown hares and bears being killed and advertised as trophies on social networks or endangered species such as the Balkan Lynx kept embalmed at restaurant bars in addition to caged bear cubs held in captivity are some of the cases the Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania (PPNEA) watchdog has identified on its dedicated syrigjelber.info portal serving as a hotline to report cases of abuse.

The watchdog warns illegal logging in the Munella Mountain, northeastern Albania, the country’s sole sanctuary of the Balkan lynx, is further putting at risk one of the most threatened wildlife species in serious danger of extinction.

Camera trappings have captured the presence of 4-6 Balkan lynx individuals and thus dwindling habitat will almost certainly drive the species towards extinction.

The Balkan lynx is a critically endangered species – only about 40 or 50 individuals are reported to exist in total. About 5-6 of these have been reported to live in the Munella Mountain in the district of Puka and Mirdita, northeast Albania.

Last year, Albania imposed a 10-year wood cutting moratorium in bid to protect remaining woods after decades of illegal logging and clearing for agriculture, seriously dwindling the country’s forest cover. The ban, which sharply increased firewood prices and put some newly established wood pellet plants in trouble, applies for industry or export purposes, whereas logging for heating purposes will be allowed albeit under the supervision of local authorities.

Last May, a three-month-old bear cub that had been trapped in mountain village outside Tirana was rescued from captivity after being illegally advertised for sale at a popular portal for €1,100.

Local authorities and animal welfare organizations have been receiving assistance by Four Paws, a Vienna-based international animal welfare organization, which last year pushed Albanian authorities to enforce a ban on the cruel keeping of bears, leading to more than a dozens bears and cubs being rescued from captivity.

Earlier this year, Henk and Eso, a malnourished bear couple found caged near a hotel in Puka, northeastern Albania, were transferred to a safe place in Tirana, where they will be regularly fed and treated properly until a forever home is found for them.

An estimated 180 to 250 brown bears currently live in the wild in Albania while another 50 are believed to be held captive, mainly for entertainment purposes.

Four Paws says that Albania is currently home to some of the saddest bears in Europe with dozens of bears and cubs trapped in tiny cages as ‘tourist attractions’ at restaurants, petrol stations or hotels as a way of luring customers.

Environmentalists also identified golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos), the symbol of Albania’s national red and black flag, kept in captivity, the killing of three red foxes and a restaurant which had turned into a museum of embalmed species in a northern Albania beach areas.

There have also been cases of illegal carp fishing during the breeding season.

Last summer, also saw a series of wildfires threatening endangered flora and fauna.

The latest violations reported by the watchdog during the first days of October include logging in the Krrab Mountain in the Puka district and the killing of a brown bear in Dibra district, northern Albania, by local residents because of damaging their crops.

Albania has banned hunting for the past couple of years and imposed a new five-year moratorium to put an end to uncontrolled and illegal hunting, which has decimated wildlife populations in the country over the last two and a half decades after the collapse of the communist regime in the early 1990s.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 11, 2017 12:54