Free the Bears
Mission: The aim of the Free the Bears fund is to protect, preserve and enrich the lives of bears throughout the world.
Species: Malayan Sun Bear
Location: Laos and Cambodia
Support started: 2011
Donating: £5,000 towards 2 components; firstly we will continue with supporting the research project and secondly support the sanctuary in Cambodia which helps provide the optimal facilities for the care of infant bear cubs rescued from the illegal wildlife trade in Cambodia. Funds are going to be used to develop the quarantine area for newly rescued bears and provide them with the vital enrichment they need to keep them stimulated.
Background: Laos is the last stronghold in Southeast Asia for bears, however their distribution, ecology and conservation status is virtually unknown. There are two species of bear, both of which are listed as ‘Vulnerable’ by IUCN, that live in this region; the Asiatic Black (moon bears) and the Malayan Sun Bear. Pressures are mounting on both species, especially as they have been depleted in neighbouring countries. The main threats to the bears are habitat loss, bear-human conflict, poaching, the pet trade and traditional medicines.
Laos is landlocked amidst China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand. Trade in bears occurs both internally and internationally, especially to China and Thailand. Since the 1980’s, bile farms have existed in Vietnam and China and are now becoming more common in Laos. Free the Bears are aware of at least 7 farms in Laos, holding around 150 bears. In these farms, the bears are kept in horrible conditions and are regularly milked for their bile. All bears that go into these farms are wild caught. Many scientists are now worried that the bile industry will quickly expand nationwide due to unclear legalities concerning its practice, and the lack of understanding of the implications that hunting, trade and these farms pose to wild populations.
A research associate for Free the Bears will now conduct a project assessing the distribution and habitat of both species of bear. It will also distinguish their ecological differences and document the threats they face that are causing population declines. All information gathered will help assess the conservation status of both bears and allow relevant conservation management plans to be put in place.
Achievements: Free the Bears Inc. has been running since 1995. They have provided support to a wide range of projects across the globe; from the rehabilitation of orphaned bear cubs in the Russian Far East to surveying wild Spectacled Bears in Ecuador. They now support a wide range of projects in six priority countries; Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. Support ranges from direct intervention on-the-ground to providing much needed funds to local organizations, to the creation and funding of bear sanctuaries. The sanctuary in Cambodia, where Colchester Zoo’s 2 sun bears were brought into, has currently rescued over 150 bears.
Future objectives: Free the Bears Inc. will continue with its mission to protect, rescue and preserve bears for the future. The information from this project will help gain a greater understanding of sun bears and allow correct conservation management plans to be put into place. Free the Bears will also continue to update their facilities at the Cambodia sanctuary, to help care for infant bears as well as refine cub rearing techniques.
Picture of 2 young sun bear cubs at the Cambodia bear sanctuary (c) Free the Bears Inc
François’ Langur Conservation update
The François’ Langur Conservation programme was set up in 2012...
Action for the Wild’s funds help build a new otter enclosure
In June, Action for the Wild’s donation of £4,000 was sent to the...
Canine Distemper Virus confirmed as an emerging disease in Amur tigers
Colchester Zoo’s charity, Action for the Wild, has been...
Colchester Zoo’s charity, Action for the Wild, helps The Orangutan Foundation receive €21,000
The Orangutan Foundation has received €21,000 from the EAZA Ape...
Action for the Wild funds put to good use by Save the Rhinos
Colchester Zoo’s charity, Action for the Wild, has been raising...