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For Immediate Release: 02/22/12

Major Step in Hawaii on Born Free USA Initiative to Protect Bears from Global Trade

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. On Tuesday, Feb. 21, House Bill 2296 passed the House Judiciary Committee with a unanimous vote (14 yes, 0 no, 1 absent). On Feb. 10, Senate Bill 2232 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee with a unanimous vote (3-0-2).
Both bills now head to the floor of each chamber.

According to Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA, “A huge hurdle has been overcome. We urge the Hawaii Legislature to act swiftly to close this loophole and combat what continues to be one of the most dangerous threats to bears on the mainland and globally."

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 — could encourage bear poaching globally, compromise bans already in place on the mainland, and put bears everywhere at risk.

Born Free USA helped draft this landmark bill that would protect bears by prohibiting the commercial trade in bear gallbladders and bile in Hawaii.

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.”

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

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.

Born Free USA is a nationally recognized leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to the United States 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 Travers, now chief executive officer of both organizations. Born Free’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.

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