An Asiatic black bear kept caged and hidden by a hotel owner in Kompong Chhnang province was rescued by a team of conservationists and officials on Tuesday, an official said.
Thong Vanviravuthy, head of the provincial Forestry Administration, said the 2-year-old bear was caged under a tree with a fence blocking it from sight next to the Phkay Proeunk Guest House in Kompong Chhnang City.
The hotel owner, whose name Mr. Vanviravuthy said he could not remember, had bought the bear as a cub
from villagers who had killed its mother, fed it milk by hand, and continued to raised it for about two years, he said.
The owner only agreed to give up the bear after officials told her she could face criminal charges and fines for keeping a wild animal.
Military police, Forestry Administration officials and a rescue team from Wildlife Alliance, a conservation NGO, coordinated the rescue effort on Tuesday afternoon, he added.
Mr. Vanviravuthy said the task force had not pressed charges against the owner because the bear appeared to have been looked after.
“First, we understood that she did not know the law,” Mr. Vanviravuthy said. “Second, she had taken care of it up to this point and she also loved it, therefore we mitigated [our actions against] her by just confiscating it.”
The Asiatic black bear is a species native to Cambodia that is considered vulnerable to extinction, said Nev Broadis, regional director of Free the Bears, a wildlife-protection nonprofit.
“They are most at risk from habitat destruction and hunting to supply the illegal wildlife trade,” he said.
Over the past 21 years, 201 bears have been rescued by Cambodian authorities and brought to a sanctuary run by the NGO at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center in Takeo Province, said Mr. Broadis.
Thomas Gray, director of science for the Wildlife Alliance, said that there are very few Asiatic black bears left in the wild in Cambodia and the species was considered endangered.
“The black bear is one of the most protected species under Cambodian law. There are high penalties for trade or consumption,” he said.
Khem Vuthyravong, a project manager for Wildlife Alliance’s wildlife rapid rescue team, said the bear was taken to the center on Tuesday.