Hawaii made great strides to protect bears when Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed SB 2232/HB 2296 into law last Friday. The bill was spearheaded by Born Free USA and introduced by state Sen. Clayton Hee (D- Kahuku, Laie, Kaaawa and Kaneohe) and Representatives Jessica Wooley, Chris Lee, Scott Nishimoto, Karl Rhoads and Gilbert Keith-Agaran. SB 2322/HB 2296 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.
According to Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA, “Hawaii was one of only five states that lacked comprehensive legislation to limit the trade in bear parts. Overexploitation of wildlife through national and global trade is a major concern. 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.”
Hundreds of bears suffer every year to supply the market for bear gall bladders and bile, which are part of some traditional Chinese medicine practices. Although more than 54 alternatives to bear bile exist for Chinese medicinal use, they are underutilized. In China and other Asian countries, bears are kept in cramped cages with tubes inserted directly into their gallbladders to extract bile continuously. The bears suffer as a result of malnutrition, a lack of veterinary care, and infections at the site of insertion. As Asiatic bears become more endangered, poachers increasingly turn to North American bear populations to supply the demand for bear bile.
Roberts further explains, “Both of these practices are perpetuated as more Americans purchase bear part products. By banning the trade of bear products, Hawaii has helped to reduce this market significantly.”
Although there are no bear populations on the islands of Hawaii, this bill provides important protection for mainland and foreign bear populations. By becoming the 46th state to enact a ban on the trade in bear parts, Hawaii is bringing the United States one step closer to eliminating the trade completely in the country and significantly reducing the suffering of bears.
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.
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