Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Bear fund opens discovery center in Cambodia

Sun bears are considered vulnerable throughout Asia

TAKEO, Cambodia, March 19 (Xinhua) -- The Australia-based Free the Bears Fund Inc (FTB) and the Cambodian Forestry Administration (FA) here on Wednesday opened a Bear Discovery Center at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center for education purpose.

This is the first center of its kind to be specifically designed to promote the issues related to bear conservation anywhere in Southeast Asia, said a press release from FTB.

"With the illegal trade in Sun Bears and Asiatic Black Bears still prevalent throughout Cambodia, Free the Bears hope to promote local awareness in bear conservation issues amongst the 300,000 visitors who come to the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center each year," it said.

The Bear Discovery Center will operate as an environmental education facility primarily to illustrate to its visitors the efforts that Free the Bears and FA are doing to protect and preserve the bears of Cambodia, it said.

"As people walk through the center they will learn of the plight that bears have endured in recent times, experience the different achievements that have been made since FTB started operating in Cambodia, and gain knowledge about what they can do to help protect one of Cambodia's great faunal treasures," it added.

FTB was founded in Australia by Mary Hutton of Perth, and has been working in Cambodia since 1997. So far, FTB have rescued more than 100 bears from the illegal wildlife trade in Cambodia.

The aim of Free the Bears is to protect, preserve and enrich the lives of bears throughout the world. Over 500 bears have been confiscated from the illegal pet, wildlife and medicine trades throughout Asia.

Currently, there are 88 bears at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center, 65 of them adult and others cubs.

There are eight species of bear in the world, six of which are found in Asia. Two species of bear can be found in Cambodia, the Malayan sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) and the Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus).

Editor: Gao Ying

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