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Bear cub smuggler arrested in northern Thailand

Thai official taking care of two seized Asian black bear cubs | photo via Ejan

Two tiny Asian black bear cubs were seized from a smuggler in Mae Hong Son province in northern Thailand yesterday.

The smuggler, who was arrested under suspicion of wildlife trafficking, claims he saved the bears when their mother got chased by a dog on the Myanmar side of the border.

Head of the Office of Conversation Area 16, Pornthep Chareonsuebsakul, said he received a call at 4.30pm from the Deputy Chief of Tham Pla-Namtok Pha Suea National Park, Kiattisak Wangwan, to say that he, park rangers and soldiers jointly arrested a man under suspicion of smuggling two Asian black bear cubs into Thailand.

One of the cubs is male and the other is female. They are both estimated to be around one month old.

Officers seized the cubs at a refugee camp in the Pang Moo subdistrict, outside the boundaries of Tham Pla-Namtok Pha Suea National Park.

They arrested one unnamed man who was taken for interrogation at Mae Hong Son Police Station.

The accused told police that three days ago, he saw a dog chasing the cub’s mother on the Myanmar side of the border. So, he decided to take the cubs and raise them himself, on the Thai side of the border, to sell them.

Aside from the intention to sell the cubs, the police did not buy the smugglers’ story. They said they were pleased the cubs were seized before being sold.

According to KhaoSod, rangers say it is more likely that the mother bear was killed for her cubs.

The two Asian bears (literally “buffalo bears” in Thai) cubs were confiscated and taken to be raised at the Pang Tong Wildlife Breeding Station not far from the national park.

In Thailand, the maximum penalty for the illegal import or export of protected wildlife is four years imprisonment.

The Asian black bar, also known as the moon bear, is a medium-sized bear listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. The Asian black bear is threatened by deforestation and poaching for its body parts, which are used in traditional medicine.

Bear bile has been used in traditional Asian medicine for thousands of years. It contains high levels of ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) known to be useful for treating liver and gall bladder conditions in humans.

Female Asian black bears give birth to one or two cubs every other year, usually during the winter months. The cubs stay with their mother for up to two years, learning essential survival skills.

On Monday, five poachers were sentenced to four years and 9 months imprisonment and a 750,000 baht fine each for killing and skinning two rare Bengal tigers in Thong Pha Phum National Park.

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leah

Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.