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For Immediate Release: 03/16/11

Born Free USA Spearheads Initiative to Protect Bears in New York

Organization Urging Lawmakers to Stop the Commercial Trade in Bear Gallbladders and Bile

Throughout the United States, American black bears are killed for their gallbladders and bile. New York is home to 6,000 to 7,000 black bears and is one of only five states that allow the free trade in bear gallbladders and bile. Born Free USA has helped draft a landmark bill introduced Monday (Assembly Bill 6291/Senate Bill 3858) that would protect bears from poaching and profiteering by prohibiting the commercial trade in bear gallbladders and bile in New York state.

“By allowing commercialization of bear gallbladders and bile, all bears are at risk of poaching,” said Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA. “If caught in a state that prohibits this trade -- like neighboring states New Jersey and Pennsylvania -- poachers and profiteers avoid prosecution by simply claiming the gallbladder or bile came from New York. Evidence from an undercover operation by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service linked New York to a network of illegal bear gallbladder trafficking in the U.S. The New York Legislature should act without delay to protect bears and help wildlife law enforcement across the country.”

Sponsored by Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal (D-67th) and Senator Mark Grisanti (R-60th), the bipartisan bill would amend the New York Environmental Conservation law to make it unlawful for any person to sell or barter, offer to sell or barter, possess, purchase, transport, deliver or receive, bear gallbladders, bile or any product, item or substance containing, or labeled or advertised as containing, bear gallbladders or bile.

Roberts added: “The Rosenthal/Grisanti legislation creates a sound statewide policy against the trade in bear gallbladders and bile. The absence of such legislation prohibiting trade in bear parts facilitates a flourishing intrastate, interstate and international illegal trade and complicates wildlife law enforcement efforts. They deserve the support of all compassionate New Yorkers.”

Bear gallbladders and bile can sell for thousands of dollars on the black market to supply commercial markets here and abroad. Because the Asiatic bear is endangered, poachers turn to America to supply market demand. Undercover surveys on the sale of bear bile products found that 20 percent of New York City shops carrying traditional Asian medicine openly sell bear bile, including intact gallbladders taken from local wild bears.

Bear gallbladders and bile have been increasingly found for use in non-medicinal applications such as shampoos and 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.

Born Free USA (BFUSA) is a nationally recognized leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation and public education, BFUSA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and destructive international wildlife trade. BFUSA’s Primate Sanctuary in Texas is home to more than 500 primates rescued from laboratories, roadside zoos and private possession. BFUSA brings to America the message of “compassionate conservation,” the vision of the United Kingdom-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film “Born Free,” along with their son Will, now CEO of both organizations. BFUSA’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally.

More at www.bornfreeusa.org; on twitter at http://twitter.com/bornfreeusa; and facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BornFreeUSA.

Media Contact: Rodi Rosensweig, (203) 270-8929; rodicompany@earthlink.net.

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