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Largest Black Bear Center Founded in Chengdu
Eighty-four black bears rescued from bear breeders were moved Monday to their new home, the Longqiao Black Bear Care Center in suburban Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province.

The establishment of the center shows that the world's largest "Save the Black Bear" operation has made great progress in China, according to experts associated with the center.

The operation was co-sponsored by the Asian Wildlife Fund (AWF), the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA) and the forestry department of Sichuan.

Covering some 10 hectares, the center, believed to be the largest of its kind so far in Asia, can accommodate 150 bears. Sixty-eight of the 84 bears have been recovering in the center, and 16 others are awaiting surgery.

The "Save the Black Bear" is aimed at rescuing a total of 500 bears in five years from deplorable conditions in bear pens in Sichuan, said Jill Robinson, founder of AWF.

Robinson added that AWF will promote the "Save the Black Bear" throughout China over the next 10 years with the objective of putting a definitive end to bear breeding in the country.

Bear gallbladder has been used as a medical ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 3000 years, but recent research has demonstrated that there are 53 herbal plants which can be used as substitutes for bear gallbladder, according to Liu Zhengcai, a medical expert.

Thanks to the enhanced protection of wildlife in the last few years, the number of black bear breeders in Sichuan has decreased from 100 to 30, and that of bears in captivity has been reduced from 2,700 to 2,300, according to an official with the provincial forestry department.

The Chinese government firmly supports the efforts of AWF and CWCA to protect black bears, and actually the number of bears raised for gallbladder use has not been increased with the reduction of bear breeders nationwide, according to Chen Runsheng, secretary-general of CWCA.

(Xinhua News Agency December 17, 2002)

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