Five Asiatic black bear cubs have been rescued in northern Laos and are currently undergoing rehabilitation, Australian non-governmental organization Free the Bears has said.
The bear cubs were found in a bamboo paper factory, a cassava plantation, and a private household in Luang Namtha province after the NGO and the Lao police jointly raided the locations last week, AFP reported.
All owners claimed that they purchased the Asiatic black bear cubs from villagers, but it is illegal to keep the bears, trade their parts or extract bile in Laos.
The cubs were “weak and malnourished” when they were found but are now “doing well,” NGO spokesman Rod Mabin told AFP.
They would spend a month at a sanctuary near Luang Prabang before being introduced to a nursery enclosure, he added.
The NGO rescued over 23 bears in Laos between 2017 and 2018.
It also provides training, employment opportunities and alternative livelihoods to local villagers, in a move to enhance awareness of the danger of wildlife trafficking.
The Lao government announced in May last year that it would tighten regulations against hunting and trade of protected wildlife in the country.
At that time, Laos issued Order No. 5 that was designed to direct strict action be taken on wildlife law enforcement and stop the establishment of wildlife farms and instructs that those found trading prohibited wildlife be investigated and prosecuted.
According to a study published in Global Ecology and Conservation last year, traders in Laos openly stocked bear products, pangolin scales, elephant skin and tiger bone wine for sale, in violation of national legislation.
“The trade in wildlife for medicinal use was the most dominant, particularly involving bears,” the study noted, adding that bear-based products made up 43 percent of all products recorded and such products were sourced from China.
The study cited Boten, a border town near China, as one of the hubs largely to cater to Chinese markets, with many outlets being run by Chinese nationals, prices quoted in yuan and clocks set to Beijing time.