Wildlife Alliance has recently partnered with the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in an effort to advance our mutual goal of protecting wild Malayan Sun Bears. Commercial poaching is the primary threat facing these bears in Cambodia where Wildlife Alliance’s Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT), works tirelessly to protect them. The international trade of bears and bear parts is a highly sophisticated, global, criminal industry that is decimating indigenous bear populations throughout the world. The demand for bears and bear parts has nearly tripled throughout the past decade due to the increasing demand for bears as pets and for bear bile, gall bladders, claws, skin and meat. The seriousness of this threat to Cambodian bears was noted by TRAFFIC in their 2014 report on the bear trade, which noted the WRRT’s importance in stopping the trade, observing that the WRRT has been “responsible for apprehending and reporting 93% of bear seizures within Cambodia.”
The continued success of the WRRT is vital to the survival of Malayan Sun Bears. Cleveland Metroparks Zoo’s support will help Wildlife Alliance end Cambodia’s involvement in the international bear trade. The WRRT is working to increase their trans-boundary communications and develop stronger relationships with customs officials and officials in neighboring countries to stop international trade. The team is also increasing on-the-ground informant networks in the communities that act as buffer zones to Cambodia’s largest Malayan sun bear habitat.
A key component in stopping wildlife trafficking is increasing public awareness about the industry. Zoos are very beneficial in this side of conservation. Our partnership with the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo will hopefully also increase public awareness about the illegal wildlife trade and our efforts to stop wildlife crime.