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Fighting trafficking of Cambodia’s vulnerable bears

In their wild habitats in Asia, the Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus), and the Sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) play an important role in keeping the ecosystem healthy, by doing things such as spreading seeds throughout the forest through their faeces.

But both species are now classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as vulnerable, as they have suffered from trafficking and from habitat loss and degradation.
For example, the Sun bear population declined by 30 per cent over the past 30 years because of both deforestation and trade, according to an INTERPOL report.
They are often traded as souvenirs or pets, and many of them are kept in bear farms where their bile is extracted for sale as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine. Some 13,000 bears are currently housed in illegal and legal captive establishments, according to INTERPOL.
Free the Bears Fund, a charity based in Australia, has been working with the Cambodian Forestry Administration since 1997 to protect these animals.
Some of the bears they rescued over the years now live in a sanctuary at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre, some 40 kilometres south of Phnom Penh, in Cambodia. Given that these animals would not be able to survive in their natural habitat because they have never learnt to live in the wild, they will spend the rest of their lives here where they are fed, protected and cared for.
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