Tomi is kept in a run-down restaurant in mountains of Albania where diners can watch the animal as they eat. Tomi’s home is a tiny cage next to a run-down restaurant in beautiful mountains 40 miles north of the Albanian capital Tirana. They take videos of him on their smart-phones, pose for selfies, and if feeling kind give him sweets, cake and crisps. His owner occasionally gives him beer to quench his thirst. It’s look like zoo, but actually it’s not.
Tomi’s mood fluctuates. Sometimes, when he can smell food, he cups his paws in a begging motion and gazes hopefully in the direction of the customers. Occasionally he puts his jaws through the iron bars and sticks out his tongue, clinging to the hope that someone might feed him. In other moments, he paces around his cage intensely, and then goes into what appears to be a self-harming spasm – biting his limbs while shaking his head violently.
An animal welfare expert said it is the result of ‘extremely monotonous and confined living conditions’ which, he added, are ‘unbearable’ for him. Until two years ago, Tomi roamed the mountains, woodland and river across the road from the eatery where he is now a very reluctant tourist attraction. In his small cage the bear is unable to express even the most basic natural behaviour.
But his owner who hunted him down with a tranquiliser gun simply blames boredom and sees no problems with bear health. his sickening idea of taking the bear out of his natural habitat - in a bid to boost takings. Bear is desperately hungry relying on sweets and crisps from visitors and can be seen begging, paws outstretched. To add to his torment, a tank filled with water and trout for restaurant diners is situated just a few feet away, well within smelling range.
He is one of 80 caged bears across Albania and animal welfare campaigners are demanding urgent end to cruelty. Some are forced to perform as dancing bears and incredibly live in even more cramped conditions than Tomi. Campaigners have repeatedly urged the country’s Government to rescue them from captivity but despite numerous promises of action nothing has really happened and the Albanian brown bear is now a seriously endangered species. Only about 250 brown bears remain at large in the poverty stricken country.
The Albanian Minister of Environment, Lefter Koka, who signed the memorandum of understanding, said: 'We want to strengthen the image of Albania as a responsible tourism destination, where cruelty towards animals has no legitimate place.’ But critics doubt whether the country, which hopes to join the EU in the next few years, will act on its promises.