World’s ‘worst zoo’ raided by cops
POLICE had to break the entrance gate of an Albanian zoo to rescue 11 neglected wild animals.
It follows recent horrific images that surfaced of inside the zoo showing the poor treatment of the wild animals from the Safari Park Zoo in Mbrostar in Fier County, Albania.
But on Sunday, international animal protection organisation Four Paws, together with the Albanian Ministry of Tourism and Environment, evacuated 11 neglected wild animals, including three lions and a three-legged bear from the zoo dubbed "Europe's worst zoo" and the "zoo from hell".
On October 23, the animal rights group said Albanian authorities had ordered the closure of the zoo which then followed the recent evacuation process.
Four Paws has been investigating the Safari Park Zoo since December 2015 but explained that because of legal regulations, it has not been possible to intervene until now.
"Due to safety reasons, the owner of Safari Park Zoo was not informed in advance about the
confiscation of the wild animals," the statement read.
Police had to break the entrance gate to give the almost 20-person Four Paws rescue team access to the zoo.
"What we saw was shocking: dirty little concrete enclosures with desolate animals inside. The animals are all in bad conditions," veterinarian Marc Gölkel, who was part of the Four Paws rescue team said.
"Lenci the lion suffers from a proliferation on the conjunctiva of his left eye that needs to be treated. The three-legged female bear Dushi is very emaciated and has clear behavioural disorders."
But the park's owner Petrit Osmani, who has been running the zoo for around 15 years, strongly opposed the raid and has denied his animals were sick or malnourished.
Mr Osmani told AFP: "You don't have the right! These animals are my children, you are taking away my children!"
His lawyer, Elvis Sulejmani, said 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.
In a statement, Four Paws said the animals have temporarily been transferred to a zoo in Albania's capital Tirana, however, moments after being released into an enclosure at the zoo, sadly, a weakened zebra had died.
The zebra had been sedated before being loaded into a horse trailer and was conscious while being transferred to Tirana but died as soon as it was freed.
"As is common practice in wild animal transfers, the team of veterinarians sedated the zebra and loaded him for transportation into the horse trailer," Mr Gölkel said. "During the transfer he was fully conscious, however shortly after being released into an enclosure at Tirana Zoo, the zebra died unexpectedly.
"There is always a residual risk with anaesthesia - especially if the animals come from poor keeping conditions. The anaesthesia and the two-hour transfer were obviously too much for the weakened zebra. We are all sad that we could not help this poor animal more."
Four Paws wild animals department director Ioana Dungler said while they understand the conditions at Tirana Zoo are not ideal for the rescued animals, "it was the safest option."
"We are currently working on more species-appropriate solutions. The three lions will probably come to our big cat centre Feilda in the Netherlands," she said.
"There we specialise in the rehabilitation of particularly difficult cases. It is likely that we transfer bear Dushi to our bear sanctuary Müritz in Germany."