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2nd August 2007

Photos: Animals Asia

Zoos across Australia and New Zealand have launched a campaign seeking one million supporters to help rescue 7,000 bears and put an end to bear bile farming in China.

Members of the Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria (ARAZPA) are hoping to gather support from the 14 million people who pass through their gates each year to encourage the Chinese Government to end bear bile farming.

ARAZPA President Susan Hunt said zoos and aquariums had joined forces to support the China Bear Rescue program run by Hong Kong based animal welfare charity, Animals Asia Foundation (AAF).

"Animals Asia Foundation is working with the Chinese Government on the eventual phasing out of bear bile farming and has welcomed our support in encouraging China to end the practice of farming Asiatic Black Bears to harvest their bile for traditional Chinese medicine.

"To date, the Chinese Government has closed more than 40 bear farms and released 219 bears from these farms into the care of the Animals Asia rescue centre in Sichuan.

"However, more than 7000 bears remain on farms. These bears, also known as Moon Bears, live in appalling conditions in tiny cages so that bile can be extracted from their gall bladder through a permanently open wound in the abdomen.

"The aim of our campaign is to raise awareness of bear bile farming and collect one million signatures for a communiqué applauding the Chinese Government's progress to date in releasing 219 bears and urging the complete phasing out of bear bile farming.

Taronga and Western Plains Zoo director Guy Cooper said today: "We believe that, collectively, our staff and our visitors can have a huge impact by placing a spotlight on the horrific living conditions of these bears and encouraging an end to this practice.

Bear bile is used in traditional medicine to treat heat-related illnesses but today's experts in traditional medicine have found that modern drugs, as well as natural herbal treatments, provide effective alternatives.

"Working together with Animals Asia Foundation and the Chinese Government, the complete phasing out of farming of bears for bile is a real possibility," Guy Cooper said.

Go to www.arazpa.org.au or your local zoo to sign the communiqué.

For more information contact Media Relations:

Ph: +61 2 9978 4606
Fax: +61 2 9978 4511
Email: tzpr@zoo.nsw.gov.au

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