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Home > Animal Acupuncture > Bears

Rescuing Chinese Bears

By Kate Danaher

The largest bear rescue of its kind anywhere in the world began with details released at an international media conference in Hong Kong in December, 2000.

For years, bear farming has flourished across Korea, China and Vietnam. Each day, thousands of bears are cruelly 'milked' for their bile through crude metal catheters implanted in their gall bladders. They suffer intolerably from confinement in tiny cages, which causes scarring two to three feet long across the length of their bodies.

Ironically, all bear bile products can easily be replaced by herbs or synthetic alternatives which are considered just as effective by eminent traditional medical practitioners.

In July 2000, China took the international lead towards permanently ending the practice of bear farming and an historic Agreement was signed between the Animals Asia Foundation and the authorities in Beijing and Sichuan, which would free 500 suffering endangered Moon bears from the worst farms in China and would work towards ending bear farming forever.

The China Bear Rescue is now underway

As promised, the Chinese authorities are closing down whole farms, revoking the licenses and confiscating the bears. Animals Asia has agreed to pay a level of compensation to the farmers in an effort to ensure that none of these bears are slaughtered for their parts and to help impoverished farmers move into alternative areas of employment. The Sichuan government is also passing copies of all confiscated licenses to Animals Asia and a country wide policy in China ensures that no new bear farm licenses are being issued.

Animals Asia now has 63 bears at their temporary rescue centre in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. Ranging in age from cubs to middle and old aged, all of the bears are arriving in tiny rusting cages and are in need of urgent surgery, physiotherapy and tender loving care.

As skilled Veterinary staff work to remove the cruel metal implants and repair the bears damaged bodies during five hour surgical operations, the inexcusable dire impact of bear farming is being revealed.

Metal catheters, some seven inches long, are being removed, whilst abscesses, hernias and chronic infection are observed. Most of the bears have wounds from banging their heads against the cage, and broken teeth from biting the bars in an attempt to stimulate their intelligent minds. Some of the bears have had their teeth and claws deliberately cut back or removed by farmers who believe that taking away their natural defenses will make them easier to "milk".

Many of the bears foot pads are cracked and bleeding because of the total lack of exercise from languishing in a tiny wire cage for up to twenty two years. Some even have punctured and chronically infected pads where their claws have grown over, painfully piercing the delicate tissue.

Some of the bears were taken from the wild as cubs and several have missing and deformed limbs as a result of snares or leg hold traps. Sadly, none can ever be released back into their natural environment; having being taken from their mothers at too young an age, they have never learnt the necessary survival skills.

However, Animals Asia is now utilizing the temporary rescue centre in Chengdu, complete with exercise area and swimming pool, and will soon construct a permanent semi natural sanctuary in Ziyang City where the bears will be able to live out their lives free from pain and fear.

Knowing how farmed bears can recover from such pain and misery at first hand, Animals Asia is confident that most of the bears will survive, but know only too well that months of hard work lie ahead to bring their physical and mental health back to a stage where they will, for the first time in their lives, be happy and content.

The Animals Asia Foundation is grateful to the China Wildlife Conservation Association in Beijing, the Forest Protection Department in Chengdu and the authorities in Ziyang, Sichuan Province who have done everything in their power to help and assist the China Bear Rescue in a timely and efficient way. We could not have done this without them and are confident that, whilst we work towards the rescue of 500 bears, we are paving the way together for the future elimination of bear farming in China.

Founder of the Animals Asia Foundation, Jill Robinson MBE says that: "The decision to rescue these 500 bears has not been taken lightly. In reality, they are a small percentage of the current number of 6,992 bears held on 247 farms across China. However, they are also animals which have spent anything up to twenty two years behind bars and desperately need help in the form of extensive veterinary care, physiotherapy and integration. For the first time, large numbers of farmed bears are, at last, seeing their freedom. This, and our work with the Chinese government and related authorities, is keeping bear farming in the public eye, whilst working continuously towards the goal of ending the practice once and for all."

Further information about the AAF China Bear Rescue, and print quality photographs of the bears, can be downloaded from the Animals Asia Foundation web site:

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