March 2012—This month, WSPA respresentative Chris Gee met with Green Korea United (GKU) and Ministry of Envioronment Representatives to discuss the current government plans to begin research to end bear bile farming. Gee and colleague Jackson Zee expressed optimism, as well as hopes that the issue may be raised at the 2012 IUCN Conservation Congress in Jeju Island this September. To view the news in original Korean click here:
Gee explained that the Ministry of Envonriment is in the process of selecting an entity to conduct the research promised in February 2012, when the budget committee allocated 175USD to finding a viable solution to the dying trade. A consortium is expected to be chosen this month, and RnD may convene as early as April, 2012.
Expectations have been high since the South Korean government reacted to increasing demands to end the practice of bear farming by animal welfare advocates and international organizations, as well as documented cases of illegal bear bile based product distribution in Korea.
The tentative research plan is expected to last approximately 4 months, and will cover the following areas:
-Genetic analysis of farmed bears, including documentation of age, gender, animal size and health status
-Pedigree; there are 8 subspecies of Asiatic Black Bear (Korean black bear: Ussuri black bear, Japanese black bear, Taiwanese black bear, etc.). The study will evaluate of each bear’s morphological similarity to Korean black bears and consider the physical conditions and conditions of the bear farms they reside on
-A comprehensive analysis of bears in order to select species for restoration; it is possible that bears in good health, which are found to be morphologically similar to Korean black bears (via DNA analysis) may be re-located for breeding purposes
– Survey of expert opinion from scientific institutions, natural resources institutes, public corporations, regional environmental offices, Bear Famer Association, NGOs
-Report details of possible donation of bears, ban on breeding, animal purchase, compensation, transfer, sale, etc.
– Cost of farming (average feed cost per bear, personnel expenses, purchase cost, maintenance costs)
-Develop a comprehensive bear farming management plan (tentative)
Prepare measures to support bear farmers (compensation for breed banning, support for facilities, etc.)
The selected part will suggest detailed management measures at national level, including a detailed management plan based on the results of the preliminary ratings, including data on the establishment of farming facilities, donation to research institutes, etc.
-Propose a plan and budgeting for purchase and management of facilities
-Research applicability of international cases related to bear farming to Korea through a literature review
-Research national and international management criteria for old zoos and surplus farmed bears