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Born Free USA Leads Initiative in Hawaii to Protect Bears from Global Trade

Published 01/20/12

Born Free USA, a leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, is urging Hawaii lawmakers to join the majority of U.S. states that fully prohibit the trade in bear gallbladders. Throughout the U.S. mainland, bears are killed for their gallbladders and bile. Hawaii is one of the few states that still allow trade of bear gallbladders. Although Hawaii lacks a wild bear population, this allowance — and the state’s location &mdash, could encourage bear poaching globally, compromises bans already in place on the mainland, and puts bears everywhere at risk.

Born Free USA has helped draft a landmark bill (Senate Bill 2232) introduced on Jan. 20, 2012, that would protect bears by prohibiting the commercial trade in bear gallbladders and bile in Hawaii.

“We urge Hawaii to join the majority of states in fully banning this trade,” says Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA. “Although Hawaii does not have a wild bear population, its nexus to international waters and lack of restriction on trade in bear gallbladders, bile and derivatives entering from other states creates a convenient loophole for poachers and profiteers.”

Roberts further explains, “The bear gallbladder trade is a global problem that not only affects North American bears, but also the highly endangered Asiatic black bear and other imperiled species. The Hawaii Legislature should act responsibly and without delay to protect bears and help wildlife law enforcement across the nation. There is no downside to passing this narrowly crafted conservation legislation.”

Sponsored by state Sen. Clayton Hee (D- Kahuku, Laie, Kaaawa and Kaneohe), the bill would make it illegal to purchase, sell, transport or deliver any product, item or substance containing, labeled or advertised as containing bear gallbladder or bile.

“Bear gallbladders and bile poached for profit and sold in the global black wildlife trade have no place in Hawaii,” Hee said. “The contemptible practices employed to extract bear gallbladders and bile for profit cannot be justified in the name of custom and tradition. Hawaii has no tolerance for poachers and profiteers trafficking on the global black market wildlife trade.”

Because the Asiatic bear is endangered, poachers turn to the United States to supply market demand. Bear gallbladders and bear bile are used in Asia and Asian communities in the United States to create medicines and luxury cosmetic items and toiletries such as shampoos and even hemorrhoid creams. While American black bears are poached in the wild to supply the gallbladder trade, Asiatic black bears are kept in coffin-like cages, constantly “milked” for their bile. There are reportedly as many as 54 known herbal substitutes to the use of bear gallbladders and bile that still conform to traditional medicinal applications.

Roberts adds: “It is time for Hawaii to create a sensible policy against the trade in bear gallbladders and bile. We commend Senator Hee for his leadership on this important issue.”

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