On April 28, Inspection Tiger rangers, in co-operation with the Russian Federal Security Bureau, confiscated eighteen live bear cubs on the south-eastern Russian-Chinese border. The cubs, captured in the wild often after killing the mother, were bound for China, where they would probably be kept in extremely confined conditions to extract gall bladder bile, an important ingredient in several traditional Chinese medicines. The cubs were found sedated and stuffed into cardboard boxes that are normally used to transport fruit. One bear cub had died, presumably due to drug overdose. The others are alive and well but their future appears uncertain. Ultimately, plans are being made to return most of them to the wild, but in the meantime they must be fed and maintained until old enough to survive the Russian Far East taiga.
Both NGOs and the government have mobilized forces to find accommodations for the cubs and raise money to feed them. Four cubs have been accepted by the Bear rehabilitation center in Ussurisk, which was already nearly filled to capacity. Others will probably be transferred to one other facilities also around Ussurisk that can accommodate the cubs. At present, the cubs are being kept at the border guard checkpoint.
Twenty-eight bear cubs have been brought into custody as orphans this spring in Primorye, and at least another 8 have been reported in Khabarovsk. In comparison, only one orphaned bear was reported in 2001 in Primorye. This shocking rise in numbers can only be explained by an increasing demand for bear parts and gall bladder bile in China.
Although Phoenix secured funds for the Ussurisk Bear Rehabilitation Center for this year, budgets were formulated under the assumption that no more than 4 bears would be maintained at the Center. Now, not only is that number greatly exceeded, but Phoenix is receiving requests from other organizations that agreed to accommodate some of these bears. The budget is beyond the means that Phoenix can provide, as the NGO has already overexpended itself due to the unexpected arrival of 6 bear cubs earlier this year.
Phoenix and Hunting Management Department have made an appeal to the citizens of Primorye to help supply food and medication for the cubs. Phoenix also appeals to STSC and other sponsors to provide urgent funding.