Authorities stop sale of a bear cub on the internet

TIRANA, Albania (AP) - Albanian environment officials say they have stopped the sale of a 3-month-old bear cub on the internet.

Environment Ministry spokeswoman Ana Kekezi said Tuesday that a shepherd found the bear stuck in rocks at Shen Meri village, 35 kilometers (20 miles) east of the capital.

She said the shepherd, who put the animal up for sale, was detained, fined and released.

The bear, which has been named Rei, was taken to a zoo park where experts would assess whether it was safe to return it to the wild or take it to a sanctuary.

Some 50 caged bears are used by restaurants, resorts and individuals as lures to attract people as customers, or to take a picture, or charge admission at a time when the wild bear population, estimated at 100-150, has been declining.

Last year 16 rescued brown bears were taken to sanctuaries in Kosovo, Germany, Greece, Italy and Bulgaria.

Albania does not have a sanctuary and the government is working to raise funds to start building one, near the Dajti Mountain, close to Tirana, for the remaining captive ones.

Authorities also say they are working to prepare legislation to make it a crime to take a bear from the wild.