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Mary and Mr. Hobbs
Mary (L) and Mr. Hobbs (R)

Southeast Asia’s bears are highly threatened by a rapidly developing, resource-hungry human population from across the globe. Despite being large and charismatic carnivores, research and conservation of Sun bears and Moon bears (also known as Asiatic black bears) remains largely neglected, with little known of their wild status and few targeted efforts being made to ensure they survive into the future. As illegal wildlife trade continues to threaten the survival of bears in SE Asia, fuelled by internal demand and also from China, now more than ever conservationists must make informed decisions on how to protect wild populations whilst ensuring local communities benefit from the preservation of their natural heritage.

Since 1997 Free the Bears has employed a range of strategies aimed at bear protection and species survival in SE Asia. Continuing in this role, in partnership with the IUCN SSC Bear Specialist Group, Animals Asia and local government authorities in Vietnam and Cambodia, Free the Bears are initiating a project that aims to fill gaps in knowledge and strengthen the conservation of wild bear populations through ranger training, wild habitat surveys and long-term population monitoring. Ultimately, this initiative will inform conservation strategies in two globally significant bear range-states while directly engaging with local stakeholders, empowering them as better custodians of forests, bears and wildlife.

Specifically, the Free the Bears project will survey bear distribution across a large range of protected areas in Cambodia and Vietnam, demonstrating the conditions associated with bear occupancy, and highlighting those areas most urgently in need of conservation action. Data gathered through this project will be used to support the “scientifically-independent, peer-reviewed situation analysis” that has been requested by the IUCN in advance of the next World Conservation Congress in 2016.

Taronga supports Free the Bears through an agreed partnership to work together for the conservation of Asian bears.

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