By Melissa Locker
August 31, 2016
Tomi, a brown bear, is getting a better life in Albania.
Credit: Harry M. Walker/Getty Images

A brown bear that was illegally captured from his life in the Albanian mountains, shot with a tranquilizer dart, and forced into a 20-foot by 10-foot concrete cage behind an Albanian restaurant for two years is getting a new lease on life.

The restaurant owner had wanted a tourist attraction and the brown bear fit the bill, but the owner had no interest in providing the bear with a proper cage or the correct food. Instead the bear, named Tomi, was kept in the tiny, bare cage and fed a diet of junk food and beer from passersby.

The Daily Mail released distressing images a few months ago of the squalid conditions where the bear was being held behind the café, near the Albanian capital of Tirana. The photos showed the bear allegedly harming himself to alleviate boredom and misery.

The upsetting images caused an uproar and international outrage. As pressure mounted to free the bear from his bleak existence, the Albanian government decided to do something about the situation.

Tomi was seized in a joint rescue operation by the Albanian government and the Four Paws animal rescue organization.

“Tomi is in a very poor state. His teeth are badly damaged, and he has injuries to his upper body,” said Carsten Hertwig, from the Four Paws charity. “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,” he said.

As soon as the paperwork is filed, Tomi will be living in a nature preserve near Pristina, Kosovo, which specializes in brown bear rehabilitation and care. Tomi will live out his life there, without a cage in sight.

While Tomi got a happy ending, he is not the only bear held in captivity in Albania. Four Paws, the animal rescue group, estimates that there are at least 80 other brown bears being held in cages as tourist attractions at restaurants, gas stations, and beaches across Albania.