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THE VILE AND THE BILE: Inside South Korea’s bear farms where malnourished animals sit in rusty cages just waiting to die

The photos show bears in captivity with overgrown nails, cracked feet, balding patches on their skin, the cage floors carpeted with feces and with food and water in short supply.

SADIE WHITELOCKS: Shocking images show the horrendous conditions of defunct bear bile farms in South Korea. The photos show bears in captivity with overgrown nails, cracked feet, balding patches on their skin, the cage floors carpeted with faeces and with food and water in short supply.

Although bear farming has been illegal in South Korea since 1992, more than 300 bears remain in captivity on the farms PhD student Joshua Powell tells MailOnline that this has meant that ‘some illegal harvesting of bear parts is thought to continue on some of the farms – and some seem to still be illegally breeding bears’.

He visited one former bear bile farm in Gangwon-do, just south of the Demilitarized Zone ( DMZ), in June and described it as a ‘fairly horrific’ scene, with the stomach-churning stench of faeces, swarms of flies and 15 bears kept in small cages.

Powell, who is currently doing a PhD on the conservation of large mammals in northeast Asia, was invited to the farm by the founder of Project Moon Bear. The organisation has been campaigning for several years to bring an end to bear farming…

His photos along with images taken by Project Moon Bear highlight the plight of the bears and the awful conditions they live in. Powell says the total number of captive bears in South Korea is thought to be around 380, far outnumbering the small wild population which stands at roughly 72.

Although Asiatic black bears, better known as moon bears, are native to Korea, the ones in captivity were imported from Russia and China during the early 1990s… Animals Asia describes the process of extracting bear bile as painful and ‘invasive’… ‘Some bears are even fitted with ‘metal jackets’. Reminiscent of a medieval-style torture device’…

The bears that remain in captivity on South Korea’s defunct bile farms cannot be released into the wild as their genetic lineage is unknown and they are too used to human interaction for this to be possible. Many of the ageing farmers don’t want to keep the bears, as they are not worth as much anymore now that bile farming is illegal, but they do not know what to do with them.

Powell says that the animals are a ‘significant drain of money’ for many of the owners, who treat them more like waste bins, feeding them leftover scraps… In a bid to help the bears that remain in captivity, Project Moon Bear is aiming to build a sanctuary to re-home the bruins.

The farm that Powell visited has committed to transferring all of its 15 bears to the facility when it is ready. He concludes: ‘While a single sanctuary can never house all 380 bears, the hope is this may also provide inspiration to others’. SOURCE…

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