The Wild Animal Sanctuary Rescues South Korean Bile Bears

In an earlier post we discussed the plight of Asian “bile bears” and today we are glad to report that The Wild Animal Sanctuary (TWAS) has in fact rescued 22 Asiatic Black Bears who were kept on a quasi-legal bear bile “farm.”

close up photo of black sloth bear
American and Asiatic black bears are closely related. Most Asian bears have a white chest splotch, only about 25 percent of American black bears do. Asiatic black bears are considered vulnerable and are frequent victims of the bile trade. Photo by Kevin Bidwell on

Bears have been hunted all over the world for many centuries. Hunters consumed or made use of most of the body parts of the hunted bears, including the bile. Bear bile is recognized as a medicinal substance in both Western and Eastern medicine. The proven uses have all been replaced by more modern treatments.

In Asia the demand for bear bile remained strong enough that captured bears were put on “farms.” They could be slaughtered, have their bile ducts removed or have them periodically drained. Needless to say veterinary surgeons were not overseeing the removal of the bile.

Over the last few dozen years a growing movement against capturing bears for bile has emerged. Some “farmers” responded by trying to find new uses for bile – including as an ingredient in toothpaste. But gradually the tide has been turning against the practice. South Korea has officially ended farming (but there appear to be loopholes in the law). Other nations, except China, appear to be slowly moving away from bear bile farming.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary, which operates sanctuaries in Colorado and Texas totalling more than 10,000 acres has steppe3d in.

TWAS flyer for last year’s celebration of the rescue of 141 animals from Joe Exoti

According to TWAS Executive Director Pat Craig, the rescue process was “long and burdensome.”

In an email to Wild Animal News Craig said the bears were rescued from a remote bile farm in the south of the country. “The nearly two dozen bears were abused for years,” he said “but were given a second chance at life when the South Korean government finally abolished the bear bile trade.”

Craig estimated that hundreds of bears “wait patiently at their respective bear farms with hopes of being rescued one day.”

Craig said TWAS is working with the Korean Animal Welfare Association (KAWA) to rescue bears. Craig said he hopes the rescue will spark interest in creating a bear sanctuary within South Korea.

Pat Craig is executive director of TWAS

TWAS currently operates three sanctuaries. The Keenesburg , Colorado flagship covers more than 700 acres and is open the public on a limited basis. The organization also operates a small sanctuary in Texas and more than 9,000 acres at a second Colorado site. Neither the Texas or second Colorado site is open to the public. The sanctuary has recently been a high-profile rescue group due to involvement rescuing animals from “Tiger King” Joe Exotic.

Published by ursusrising

long time writer and editor living in Los Angeles

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