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Sat, Feb 10, 2001 - Page 2 News List

Thousands join effort to save bears

ANIMAL WELFARE Over 100,000 people in Taiwan have written to China's President Jiang Zemin, asking that he put a stop to the farming of bears for their bile

STAFF WRITER

Taiwanese are joining a campaign en mass to petition China's leader to use his official capacity to save bears from cruel treatment, an animal welfare group said yesterday.

More than 100,000 Taiwanese have written postcards urging Chinese President Jiang Zemin (江澤民) to save the animals from being tortured at China's 240-plus bear farms, according to animal rights activists from the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST, 動物社會研究會).

The society started distributing postcards in Taiwan on Nov. 20 as part of a worldwide campaign against bear farming in China -- an initiative launched by the UK-based World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).

According to EAST's chief, Chen Yu-min (陳玉敏), Chinese bear farmers usually cut an opening through a caged bear's abdomen and tap its bile twice a day.

"Up to 10,000 black bears, almost half of the black bears in China, are kept in tiny cages at bear farms," Chen said yesterday, urging the Chinese government to take action immediately.

Chen also said that the campaign was significant to Taiwan -- as the hunting and killing of bears here still continues.

"We are glad that more and more Taiwanese people ... are actively joining the campaign," Chen said, adding that some elementary school students even requested more than 100 postcards each in order to pass them to friends and classmates.

Meanwhile, local media criticized Taiwan's Council of Agriculture (農委會) for its lack of attention to the plight of Taiwan's black bears.

"Just how many black bears do we have?" reports asked yesterday, "Perhaps none of our officials can answer this question."

According to local media, no conservation research on Taiwan's black bears had been conducted until Huang Mei-hsiu (黃美秀), a doctoral candidate resident in the US, started work on the project in July 1998.

"The outlook for Taiwan's black bears is bleak. The total number of indigenous black bears number less than 40 now," Huang said.

According to Huang's research, two out of 15 bears she studied lacked a paw and all the others were injured in some way, showing that Taiwan's black bears were still being hunted.

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