Endangered Bears Taken From Organ Traders

Two Asiatic black bears raised in captivity for eventual removal of their valuable livers have been rescued and given a new home at Phnom Tamao Zoo in Takeo prov­ince, wildlife officials said Monday.

The female weighing 45 kg and the male weighing 55 kg were kept in a small cage in Battam­bang district, Battambang prov­ince since their birth around two and one-half years ago, Yam Yet, Battambang provincial court prosecutor said.

Bear liver is a much sought after ingredient in Chinese traditional medicine, and both animals were destined for the organ trade, said an official at the Wild­life Protection Office of the Min­istry of Agriculture.

The bears were freed  Wednes­day with assistance from NGOs WildAid and Free the Bears Fund, the official said.

Yam Yet said the animals were confiscated from the owner after he refused to voluntarily hand them over to the wildlife officials.

Yam Yet said charges have not been brought against the owner of the bears, as he was waiting for evidence from wildlife officials.

In July, the National Assembly passed a wide-ranging forestry law that stiffened penalties for forest crimes, providing for prison terms of one to 10 years for illegal logging and breeding wild animals in captivity.

Nhim Ty, a veterinarian at Phnom Tamao Zoo, said the bears are in good health, but will be kept in quarantine for 15 days before being released into roomier cages.

The zoo also received three peacocks donated by villagers in Battambang province who handed them over to wildlife officials after an appeal to free any captive animals they possessed.

The villagers had looked after the birds for years, Pheng Sithy, an official in the Battambang Forestry Office, said Monday.

Trade in wildlife and poaching have decreased in Battambang province recently because of in­creased anti-poaching operations and snap inspections at markets, Pheng Sithy said.


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