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Free the Bears project update

in Asia
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Action for the Wild is pleased to announce its continued support of Free the Bears, this time with their work in Lao PDR. Fuelled by demand within Southeast Asia and China, the illegal trade in bears (both live bears and their body parts) constitutes a major threat to bear survival in Laos. Free the Bears has been working in Laos since 2003, employing a range of strategies to ensure that bears are protected and survive for future generations. In particular, they have been working with the Luang Prabang Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office to provide a safe sanctuary for rescued bears. Over the past 13 years, almost 40 Sun bears (Helarctos malayanus) and Moon bears (Ursus thibetanus) have been confiscated from poachers and wildlife traders, or have been donated by people who had previously kept them as trophy pets. Today the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre is Laos' only dedicated centre for the placement of rescued bears and is now home to 37 bears, with 2015 experiencing the biggest ever year for rescues.

With the current sanctuary overcrowded and illegal trade in bears running at levels higher than ever seen before, it is crucial that Free the Bears are able to continue to offer a safe home for each and every bear rescued in Laos. With no further opportunities to expand within Tat Kuang Si Park, Free the Bears has been searching for a suitable location to establish a second sanctuary since 2011. This sanctuary needs to have adequate space for 150 bears as Free the Bears’ long-term goal is to end bear bile farming in Laos, as well as rescue any bears being illegally traded or trafficked.  It is thought that there are still over 100 bears languishing in bile farms across Laos and there are still dozens of bears being kept in private households or restaurants, so a new sanctuary is vital in helping to provide a haven as these bears are rescued.

Action for the Wild will be donating £5,000 towards the purchase of 1ha of land for the new sanctuary. Working together with Action for the Wild, this project will enable Free the Bears to immediately improve protection of bears in Laos by securing vital land to support the development of a new sanctuary. Immediately this new sanctuary will support wildlife law enforcement efforts, build local support for bear conservation and, ultimately, offer opportunities to develop programmes aimed at re-releasing rescued bears back into the wild.

Click here for a short video showing some of Free the Bears’ highlights over the past 21 years: http://www.freethebears.org/index.php/about-us/objectives-and-achievements

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