Care for bears in China

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2002:
BEIJING, HONG KONG, SHANGHAI–China cares about bears.
That was clear from nationwide outrage erupting in February
2002 after a 21-year-old engineering student poured sulfuric acid and
caustic soda over five bears at the Beijing Zoo “to see if bears are
really stupid.”
International Fund for Animal Welfare representative Zhang Li
offered help to the zoo in treating the bears, who repeatedly all
suffered vision loss, mouth injuries, and badly burned paws. Zhang
Li also appealed for a national law on animal welfare. An existing
law protecting wildlife may not apply to zoo animals.


Underscoring the need to protect captive animals, an
ex-Quingdao Zoo keeper named only Wang was in early March charged
with poisoning two Malaysian sun bears and five elk in September and
October 2001, and with attempting to poison a leopard.
The Shanghai Evening Post reported that Wang was demoted from
keeper to cleaner after he broke a leg leaping down a flight of
stairs while blind drunk, trying to escape arrest for being caught
with a prostitute.
The Beijing and Quingdao cases prompted the Shanghai Zoo to
replace signs discussing the dangers and uses of wildlife with signs
giving scientific information. “We hope that more and more visitors
will love and cherish animals in the future,” a spokesperson named
Tu told Agence France-Press.
The warmth of Chinese feeling for the injured and killed zoo
bears was at odds with the horrific mistreatment of bile farm bears
shown to the world during the March 16 Genesis Awards presentations
by the Ark Trust. The bears’ teeth are typically sawed short, their
claws are removed, and they are kept in close confinement with metal
shunts thrust into their stomachs to hold the bile tubes.
Animals Asia Foundation founder Jill Robinson won Genesis
honors for rescuing 65 bears from 30 defunct bile farms so far, with
a contract in place to take 500 more bears during the next five years
as Sichuan Province closes more bile farms. Across China, 6,991
bears remain on bile farms, says Robinson, who hopes to rescue
bears from other provinces as the capacity of the Animals Asia
Foundation for keeping bears in sanctuaries increases. The program
is limited mainly by lack of funding. Robinson started with seed
money and a small sanctuary built by IFAW, for whom she was formerly
an Asian representative, but the bear rescue program is expected to
achieve financial independence.
Opinion research commissioned by IFAW in 1999 found that
88.5% of the residents of Beijing and Shanghai believe tapping bears’
bellies to extract bile is unacceptably cruel.
Yet even as Chinese demand for bear bile declines, export
demand is reportedly rising. The Animal Concerns, Research, and
Education Society of Singapore announced in December 2001 that 75% of
the Chinese medicine shops in Singapore sell bear bile products.
The Japan Wildlife Conserv-ation Society reported in February
2002 that a two-year survey of 128 Chinese medicine shops found that
80% illegally sell bear gall bladders. About 60% come from wild
bears killed in Nepal, Canada, and Russia, and the balance from
captive bears in China, JWCS secretary general Masayuki Sakamoto
said.
Bear galls also come illegally from the U.S. Maryland
realtor Dong Jim Kim, 64, was to be sentenced on March 26 for her
part in a bear gall export scheme allegedly organized by Hyong Tau
Mun, 80, of McLean, Virginia. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff of the Korean Army during the Korean War, and then a Korean
cabinet member, Hyong Tae Mun and his wife Chun Ja Son were jointly
fined $6,025 and put on probation for six months in December 2001.
Demand for bear galls may be stimulated by publicity given to
claims about the medicinal value of bear bile recently made by
University of Minnesota molecular gastroenterology program director
Clifford Steer. Steer asserted that bear bile contains an acid which
may be beneficial in treating Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s
disease, Alzheimer’s disease, spinal cord injuries, and stroke
–but his findings have not yet cleared peer review for scientific
publication.
[Contact the Animals Asia Foundation at P.O. Box 82, Sai
Kung Post Office, Kowloon, Hong Kong; 852-2225; fax
852-2791-2320; e-mail <info@animals-asia.org>;
<www.animalsasia.org>.]

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