The Moon Bear Rescue Center
After speaking on the Zoo's trail system yesterday morning, I went with the rest of the conference attendees to the Moon Bear Rescue Center outside Chengdu. Although the Center cares for a few other bears, it is almost entirely focused on Asiatic black bears rescued from the bear bile trade.
Bear bile is used in some traditional medicines as well as other products. Unfortunately, harvesting is done through a variety of inhumane techniques—in some cases by inserting a permanent catheter to the bear's gall bladder, in others by stitching the gall bladder to the abdominal wall and allowing the bile to drip through a semi-permanent opening through the abdomen. These bears are also typically kept in extremely small cages.
The Moon Bear Rescue Center (the name comes from the crescent moon-shaped chest markings on Asiatic black bears—check our Asiatic black bear Ben next time you're at the Zoo) was created and is operated by Animals Asia, which works for animal well-being in Asia through a variety of initiatives. They work closely with the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens and invited me to speak to the group.
Between the Chengdu center and another in Vietnam, Animals Asia has rescued over 400 bears. The bears are housed in large enclosures, and there is a very extensive enrichment and positive reinforcement training program to facilitate daily and veterinary care. Sadly, many of the bears are in very poor health on arrival, but the Center has done excellent work with those that could be rehabilitated.
Today, bear bile "farming" is still legal. It is thought that there are as many as 10,000 bears being held for this purpose. Ending this practice is one of Animals Asia's primary goals, and the Chinese government has committed to an eventual end.
Storage of moon bear enrichment items
Interpretive graphics at the Center explain the bear bile trade
Statue of the first bear rescued by Animals Asia
09/14/2013 : Forest reserves near Hong Kong
Last full day in China, spent at one of the forest reserves near Hong Kong. Hong Kong has quite a bit of green space, both inside and outside the main urban area. And with Hong Kong subtropical—closer to the equator than Havana—the forest is luxuriant.
09/13/2013 : Ocean Park Hong Kong
Arrived in Hong Kong from Chengdu last night local time. Spent most of today at Ocean Park, a zoo and aquarium here that is a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
09/12/2013 : The Moon Bear Rescue Center
After speaking on the Zoo's trail system yesterday morning, I went with the rest of the conference attendees to the Moon Bear Rescue Center outside Chengdu.
09/11/2013 : The final speaker at the 2013 CAZG meeting
Official role today as the last speaker for the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens 2013 meeting.
09/10/2013 : Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens Dinner
There's also a very appealing protocol in China at dinners or gatherings like this of repeated toasts to each other's health. One can make one at your own table, or wander over to another table to toast an individual or the entire table. Results in a very congenial and interactive atmosphere, and opportunities to be introduced to and exchange cards with Chinese colleagues.
09/09/2013 : Arriving in Chengdu
Arrived in Chengdu today. Chengdu is the 2000-year-old capital of Sichuan Province, in south central China. Sichuan Province is home to most of the world's remaining giant pandas, and tomorrow is likely to be all about pandas, with plans to visit the Chengdu Panda Base, one of the leading organizations in giant panda conservation.
09/08/2013 : Beijing
Spent a good part of the day at the Beijing Zoo. The zoo reports more than 6 million visitors a year—easy to believe with the crowds on this Sunday.
09/06/2013 : Traveling to China
I've been asked to speak about our animal trail system at meetings of the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens, which are in Chengdu next week. Currently in the O'Hare Airport in Chicago, waiting for flight to Beijing.