On March 11, 2003 Phoenix Fund received information from Andrei Kotlyar, director of Ussuriisky bear release center, that the Customs officers asked him to house three bear cubs confiscated from Chinese smugglers on the Russian-Chinese border.
Unfortunately, the Phoenix Fund do not have funds to support the Center’s work in 2003. So we are not certain if the Center will be available to receive orphaned bear cubs.
As you know, since its creation the Ussuriisky rehabilitation center has already released bears by the score. But while this species is endangered in much of its range, it is not in Primorski Krai, the province where the rehabilitation center is located. The Asiatic black bear was removed from the Russian Red Book a few years ago, and it is at present a hunting species (the brown bear is as well) for which a limited number of lisences is available every year. There are many arguments that the populations are so low that no bear hunting should be allowed. Also, because in addition to legal hunting, the bears are also illegally killed and orphaned cubs are smuggled to China, probably to be used in “bear farms”. The pressure of illegal killing and smuggling is probably much larger, than the pressure from legal hunting. But in any case, the Asiatic black bear is not considered to be endangered at present in Primorsky Krai. So, while we try to save bear cubs, prepare them to survive in the Russian Far East tiger, the hunters are waiting for relesed bears to kill them.
Phoenix Fund, environmental NGOs of Primorye, Hunting Management Department, journalists and all concerned will have a discussion of this issue during the round table on April 09, 2003.