Three bear cubs saved from becoming Chinese tourist bait after police raid

But the endangered animals, destined to be tourist attractions, have lost the ability to survive in the wild after being kept in cramped pens for two years

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 June, 2017, 4:44pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 June, 2017, 7:04pm

Three bear cubs have been freed from captivity in southwest China after being illegally held for two years, state media reported on Thursday.

The Asiatic black bears were rescued from a village in the mountains of Yunnan province, China News Service reported.

The mission to rescue the three youngsters began in April when forest police in Jianchuan, a county in the city of Dali, received a tip-off from someone claiming to have seen the animals being sold in a field near Laojun Mountain, the report said.

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Moon bears, as the animals are also known, are an endangered species, but benefit from national-level protection in China.

Following an investigation, officers identified a male suspect with the surname Yang, and raided his home where they found the bears, the report said.

The animals were being held in cramped wooden pens and according to the forest police had been in captivity for so long that they had lost their ability to survive in the wild.

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Yang was quoted as saying that he had bought the bears for 12,600 yuan (US$1,850) in 2015 from an unnamed third party.

He added that he had raised them by hand and planned to use them as a tourist attraction to make money.

After their rescue, the bears were taken to an animal protection centre in the province, the report said, though it did not elaborate on their state of health.

Yang was detained pending trial for illegally purchasing rare or endangered animals.

Yunnan is home to 160 nature reserves, spanning 3 million hectares, and is one of China’s key regions for the protection of endangered species.