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For Immediate Release: 07/31/09

Arizona Congressman goes to bat for bears

Washington, DC — National wildlife advocacy groups Born Free USA and The Humane Society of the United States today praised Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva on the introduction of the Bear Protection Act of 2009. The legislation would prohibit the trade in bear gallbladders and bear bile, which are highly sought after in the black market wildlife trade.

“There is a bounty on the head of every American black bear,” said Congressman Grijalva. “From coast to coast across America, bear carcasses have been found with their gallbladders removed and the carcass callously left to rot. Poachers and unscrupulous profiteers are commercializing our natural resources to make a buck, selling bear organs illicitly throughout the world and putting bear species at risk.”

Demand for bear parts has already decimated Asian bear populations including the endangered Asiatic black bear. Recent research shows that bear gallbladders and bile are being sold on both legal and illegal markets in the U.S. Gallbladders from North American bears are being obtained illegally and either fraudulently marketed here or exported, while gallbladders and prepared products containing bile from endangered Asian bears are brought into the U.S. illegally and sold, primarily for use in traditional Asian medicine.

“Born Free USA congratulates Congressman Grijalva for once again stepping up and leading the fight to protect America’s natural treasurers,” said Adam M. Roberts, senior vice president. “The Bear Protection Act is wisely crafted narrowly so that it addresses the harmful trade in bear gallbladders and bile without impacting a state’s ability to make fundamental decisions regarding bear management.”

There currently exists a patchwork of state laws regulating the bear parts trade: some states allow unfettered trade in these organs, most prohibit it, and still others allow the trade if the bears were killed in another state. But once the gallbladder is removed, it is practically impossible to prove where the bear was killed. Thus, the continued trade from a small minority of states thwarts the wildlife management laws of the majority of states by facilitating a black market in bear galls. By uniformly prohibiting the trade in bear parts, the Bear Protection Act will assist state law enforcement officers in their effort to protect their resident bear populations.

“The lucrative black market trade in bear parts drives the illegal killing of these creatures throughout the world,” said Michael Markarian, chief operating officer of The Humane Society of the United States. “Passage of the Bear Protection Act would send a strong message to poachers and illicit wildlife dealers that we will not stand idly by, watching our wild bears unnecessarily slaughtered for their internal organs.”

Roberts added: “The bear parts trade is truly global in scope, putting endangered Asiatic black bears and our own American black bears at equal risk of merciless slaughter. Congress must act now before bears meet the same tragic fate as wild tigers or other species that have been decimated to supply the trade in their parts.”

Born Free USA is a leading national non-profit animal advocacy organization working to conserve and protect wildlife in the U.S. and globally. More information is available at www.bornfreeusa.org.

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Contact:
Adam M. Roberts, Born Free USA, 202-445-3572, adam@bornfreeusa.org

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