GOVERNMENT officials have removed a 100 kilogram Asiatic black bear from the home of Giordano chairman Jimmy Lai Chee-ying where it was being kept in a metal cage in his back garden. The bear, a 1.5 metre female, is being kept at the Agriculture and Fisheries Department's Sheung Shui kennels until a new home is found. The department decided to seize the bear from Mr Lai's home on Tai Po Road after receiving complaints from the public last week. Officers used anaesthetic to calm the bear before taking it to Sheung Shui. Mr Lai, chairman of Giordano Holdings and publisher of the popular Next Magazine , had admitted earlier he did not have a licence to keep the bear and a department spokeswoman said yesterday the animal was a highly endangered species protected by law. Mrs Lai said the bear, named K. K., had been with them for about eight years. They did not know they needed a licence. Mrs Lai said she and her husband felt miserable the bear had been taken. But if the department could find a better place and give it a better life, they would be happy. She said they would visit the bear until it was transferred to a new home. When the Agriculture and Fisheries staff took the bear, Mrs Lai told them that K. K. liked to have sweet food, such as milk and soft drinks. The spokeswoman said that because Mr Lai was co-operative, they did not need a warrant to take the bear from his home and they hoped to find a suitable overseas breeding centre for the bear, probably in China or south-east Asia. Jill Robinson of the International Fund for Animal Welfare hoped that the bear could be sent back to its natural habitat, such as southern China. ''They [bears] are not solitary creatures. ''They hunt and feed themselves and would like to stay with their families,'' she said. Ms Robinson said they would object if the bear was sent to a breeding centre which would keep the animal in a cage and feed it with Chinese medicine, a common practice in China, Japan and South Korea. Amy Lau of the World Wide Fund for Nature said that if the bear has been brought up in a cage since birth, it would be difficult for it to survive in the wild. But she hoped people would understand the harm of keeping wild animals as pets. The spokeswoman said the department could not decide whether to prosecute Mr Lai until statements had been taken from him in the coming few days. Any import, export or possession of an endangered species without a valid licence is an offence under law in Hongkong. The maximum penalty for the offence is a $25,000 fine on first conviction.