A lion and several bears go wild in snow in Kosovo

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By Fatos Bytyci

MRAMOR, Kosovo (Reuters) - Workers at a bear sanctuary in Pristina are working hard to look after a lion that wants to play in the snow and bears who were removed from their natural habitat when they were cubs and also enjoy the snowy conditions because they do not hibernate any more.

As the winter's first snowfall blanketed Pristina Bear Sanctuary in the Kosovan capital, visitors enjoyed the sight of a lion playing before quickly taking shelter indoors where a heater was installed to fend off temperatures which fell below freezing.

“We know that this is not their perfect environment to survive but we have created a nice place for the winter and we have installed a heater that helps him a lot because big cats need much warmer temperatures," Albana Hoti, head of animal and facilities management at the sanctuary, told Reuters.

The lion, named Gjon, was rescued last year from a local restaurant where it was kept to amuse clients. It is expected to be transported to South Africa once legal hurdles are overcome.

The sanctuary, home to 20 brown bears, is managed by Four Paws International, a non-profit dedicated to animal welfare. The bears have a similar story to Gjon's, in that they were caged in local restaurants - having been removed from local forests - before being rescued.

“Four or five of our bears do not go on a full hibernation because they never experienced their wild life and this is all what they can do, they hibernate a little bit and then again they go out."

Hoti said 16 of the sanctuary's other bears do go into full hibernation.

(Reporting by Fatos Bytyci; Editing by David Holmes)