Four bears held in captivity in Shan State’s Lashio Township have been relocated to Mandalay’s Yadanabon Zoological Gardens after forestry officials found that they were being bred illegally.
The four Asian black bears were taken from the home of a man identified in state media reports as Hla Thein, who faces charges of violating Article 35(c) of Burma’s 1994 Protection of Wildlife and Conservation of Natural Areas Law.
The law, which requires a permit for the purpose of breeding protected wildlife species, carries a sentence of up to three years in prison.
The bears, which are native to Burma and other countries stretching across a wide area of Asia, are considered a threatened species because of their declining numbers. The major threats to their survival are loss of habitat as a result of deforestation and poaching, fueled by demand for body parts used in traditional Asian medicines.
According to state media, the four bears, including one adult and three cubs, were originally purchased on the black market.
Forestry Department officials said they investigated the case after seeing reports about it online.
“Officials from our department visited the local village heads and inspected and discovered the bears. They were then sent to Mandalay’s Yadanabon Zoological Gardens on 8 July,” Kyaw Myo Min, a Lashio official from the Department of Forestry, told state media.
The Yadanabon Zoological gardens were opened in 1989. The zoo is noted for its successful conservation programme for the Burmese roofed turtle and its participation in a breeding programme for the highly endangered Burmese star tortoise.