World-Class Bear Enclosure Makes Debut

Bear’s Death Points To Need for Wildlife Laws, Experts Say

phnom tamao, Takeo province – What bear advocates call one of the best bear enclosures in the world opened here Wednesday, but it was too late for Katrina.

Despite a year’s worth of ex­pensive medical treatment, the Asiatic black bear died Sunday from the injuries inflicted by  poachers in Koh Kong province.

Matt Jeffery, director of the Free the Bears, expressed his “great sorrow” at her death. “It was very unfortunate for Katrina. What we had tried to do [to save her life] was not enough,” he said quietly.

Katrina had become a symbol of all that was wrong with the treatment of two species of bears threatened with extinction: Asi­atic black bears and Malayan sun bears.

Last September, she was rescued by the Ministry of Agri­culture’s wildlife protection officers on her way to be sold for meat in Phnom Penh. She had been caught in a snare, which nearly severed her left front paw, before being beaten unconscious and carried out of the forest hanging from a pole. The ropes tore away skin on her wrists and ankles.

The injuries eventually killed her, Jeffery said.

He said “thousands of dollars” had been spent on medical treatment but she had grown worse and worse.

Pin Livon, chief of the Phnom Tamao Zoological Gardens and Wildlife Rescue Center, said an autopsy showed internal damage, apparently from the beating, that prevented her from breathing.

Jeffery said Katrina’s death reflects the mistreatment and torture of bears and other wildlife by Cambodian poachers.

He said the government must confront the economic realities that encourages poaching by levy­ing “big fines and penalties” against illegal poachers, who can earn hundreds or even thousands of dollars by bagging a rare animal.

Cambodia does not yet have a wildlife protection law. According to Free the Bears, the British government is sending an environmental lawyer to help draft the law designed to control illegal poaching.

Katrina’s death cast a shadow over ceremonies opening the new 2.5-hectare bear enclosure at the zoo.

Funded by Free the Bears, the enclosure was to have housed Katrina and four other Asiatic black bears.

Now, it will be home to John and Ynung, two males; and Kim Suni and Brandy, both females.

The bear facility features five holding cages, a maternity den, a food storage area and keeper housing.

The large outdoor enclosure features dense foliage where the bears can forage for food, large rocks for sunning, and two pools for cooling.

Jeffery said the enclosure provides “the most natural conditions that captivity allows.’’

 

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