Free The Bears Laos and the Vile Bear Bile Trade

Posted by - November 23, 2016 | Category: Asia, Escapes, Laos

People can be a sick, perverted species. This much I know is true. Thankfully there are many kind souls on this planet that dedicate their lives to helping the less fortunate. In this particular circumstance, the less fortunate are of the bear variety, and the organization that’s helping them in Asia is Free the Bears Laos.

Free the Bears Laos Rescue Centre moon bear playing

I had an opportunity to visit Free the Bears Laos rescue centre as a day-trip from Luang Prabang. Since Free the Bears Laos was first started, they’ve saved 38 bears in total.

Free the Bears Laos Rescue Centre number of bears and cubs rescued to date

So from what exactly do the bears need saving? Many of the bears that have been rescued through the centre have lived the bulk of their lives in cages, victims of the bear bile trade — a practice I’m ashamed to say I never knew existed until I visited the Free the Bears Laos Rescue Centre.

Free the Bears Laos Rescue Centre traditional medicine made from bear bile

So what exactly is the bear bile trade? Basically, a bear is either caged and hooked up to a catheter 24/7, which drains the bile produced from its liver that is stored in its gall bladder, or is drugged and then hoisted onto an operating table to have the bile removed en masse. Bear bile is used in traditional Chinese medicine as a remedy for a variety of ailments — impotence, eye problems, liver and heart disease, and even the lowly hangover. Michigan State University reported that since the practice of bear bile farming has become so widespread, there’s actually a surplus of bear bile available, and now farmers are using it in shampoo, tea, wine, and even throat lozenges to drum up new customers.

Free the Bears Laos Rescue Centre bile extracted from bears for Chinese medicineJPG

Take a look at the video from National Geographic which explains the process, and the fight against the trade, in more detail.

If you or anyone you know is using products that contain bear bile, just know that there are alternatives. Check out this list of herbal alternatives. And wouldn’t you rather go the natural route than have some poor animal tortured its entire life so you can shake a lousy hangover? Think about it.

Free the Bears Laos Rescue Centre herbal and synthetic medicine alternatives to bear bile extract

The bears at Free the Bears Laos seemed pretty content while I was there. There is no way that they would survive back in the wild since they’ve had so much human interaction. The space they are given to roam around freely is a vast improvement over the cages in which they were previously confined.

Another bear taking a nap Free the Bears Laos Rescue Centre

Moon Bear taking a nap Free the Bears Laos Rescue CentreJPG

Bears in a tire swing Free the Bears Laos Rescue Centre

The goal of Free the Bears is not only to, well, free the bears, but also to educate the public about the conservation status of each bear species, and the problems that each faces worldwide.

Free the Bears Laos Rescue Centre exhibit explaining the conservation status of bears around the world

Free the Bears Laos Rescue Centre Moon bear conservation status vulnerable

The centre also provides neat little overviews of each of the bears that currently call Tat Si Kuang home.

Free the Bears Laos Rescue Centre Deng the Moon BearJPG

It’s worth noting that admission to Free The Bears Laos (officially titled the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre) is included with your admission ticket for the Kuang SI Waterfalls. In fact you have to walk through it to get to the falls. It’s also worth noting that not one penny of that admission ticket money goes towards Free the Bears Laos.

Zip. Zilch. Nada.

Free the Bears Laos Rescue Centre donations make a difference

So come armed with some extra Laotian Kip to purchase a few souvenirs to help out a worthy cause.

Free the Bears Laos Rescue Centre price list for Free The Bears merchandise

I bought a t-shirt for my niece (you’re welcome Sarah) and a nifty Free the Bears baseball cap that I’m sure will be the envy of hefty, hairy men everywhere.

Free the Bears Laos Rescue Centre tshirts and merchandise for sale

If you’d like to get involved, you can make a one-time donation, or even sponsor a bear for a year through the Free the Bears website. They’ve even got a generous donor who will match any contributions you make dollar-for-dollar.

Free the Bears Laos Rescue Centre sponsorship drive

If you have more time on your hands than money, Free the Beers is always looking for folks to volunteer with Free the Bears at their rescue centre in Cambodia. Contact them directly to see if there are any opportunities to volunteer at the centre in Laos.

Free the Bears Laos Rescue Centre what can you do to help the bears

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Free the Bears Laos

Would you visit the Free the Bears Laos Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre?

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14 comments - add one
  1. I would definitely go there if I was to find myself haning around in Laos. It’s grotesque how we humans believe we have the right to use other species as we see fit. We share this planet with them, and what we don’t even understand os that we are totally dependent of them.

    All animals have an inherent right to life and happiness on their own terms.

  2. I felt sorry about this cruelty. I googled more about this on Web, and the result were very heart breaking. They can use the alternatives no. Why they harming these animals. They are also part of the nature. Nobody have the right to exploit them.

  3. So they just harvest bile continuously form the bears? Jesus, Man. A completely unnecessary form of naturopathic medicine. On average, how long do the bears live under these conditions?

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