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For Immediate Release: 04/24/12

Born Free USA Initiative in Hawaii to Prohibit Commercial Trade in Bear Parts

Born Free USA, a leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, is urging Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie to sign House Bill 2296, sponsored by state Representative Jessica Wooley (D-Laie, Hauula, Kahaluu and Kaneoh), that would protect bears on the mainland and abroad by prohibiting the commercial trade in bear gallbladders and bile in Hawaii. The initiative, which was also championed in the Senate by Judiciary Chairman Clayton Hee (D-Kahuku, La'ie, Ka'a'awa and Kane'ohe), passed its final floor reading in the Hawaii Legislature on April 23, 2012.

Spearheaded by Born Free USA, the initiative makes 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. Abercrombie, a conservation advocate while serving in the House of Representatives in Washington, DC, had previously co-sponsored federal legislation to create a uniform national prohibition on the trade in bear gallbladders and bile.

According to Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA, “Overexploitation of wildlife through national and global trade is a major concern to us. Thanks to the leadership of Sen. Hee and Rep. Wooley, an important bill to combat what continues to be one of the most dangerous threats to bears on the mainland has passed. This signals a strong step toward protecting bears on a global level.”

Wooley stated, “Today is an important day for Hawaii and wildlife conservation everywhere. I am proud to have sponsored this bill and thankful that Born Free USA brought it to the Legislature’s attention. Its passage closes a dangerous loophole in what is truly a brutal and unjustifiable trade for which Hawaii has zero tolerance.”

Hee said, "I am humbled and proud that Hawaii has joined other states in enacting legislation prohibiting the sale of bear gall bladders and bile. Three years ago, Hawaii has enacted model legislation prohibiting the sale of shark fins, a product that results in the culling of seventy million sharks yearly. This legislation is yet another shining example of Hawaii's concern for the welfare of animals everywhere."

Throughout the U.S. mainland, bears are killed for their gallbladders and bile. 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. 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 bear species.

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 our hope that Gov. Abercrombie will sign this initiative expeditiously to protect bears from poachers and help wildlife law enforcement across the nation.”

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.

Media Contact: Rodi Rosensweig, publicrelations@bornfreeusa.org, (203) 270-8929.

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