The Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre in Laos saves bears from gall bladder poachers.

Saving the Bears From the Gall Bladder Poachers

Saving the Bears From the Gall Bladder Poachers

Atlas Obscura
Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
July 14 2015 2:48 PM

The Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre in Laos Saves Bears from Gall Bladder Poachers

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Swinging in hammocks, playing with tires, and generally frolicking in a wonderland made just for the them, the bears at the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre have plenty to be happy about—especially given they were all rescued from poachers looking to harvest their parts. 

Operated by Free the Bears, a fund set up to save imperiled ursines across the globe, the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre caters specifically to the Asian black bear. The bile from the black bear's gall bladder is a common component in traditional Chinese medicine, and unfortunately a brutal black market has sprung up around milking the animals for their vital juices. Kept in inhumane conditions, the illegally trapped bears would be repeatedly harvested for as long as they could survive in their tiny cages. In addition, the animals are often poached to be used as food or even pets.


Tragic origins aside, the bears at the rescue center lead fulfilling lives in the open enclosures that provide enough space and stimulation to keep the animals happy and healthy.

Visitors to the refuge can stroll along the wooden paths and view the adorable (if grizzly) beasts as they lounge, play and generally look more cuddly than killer. There are also signs that inform guests of the plight of the Asian black bear. But seriously, just look at how cute those bears are.

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Eric Grundhauser is a head writer and editor at Atlas Obscura. He lives in Brooklyn with his comic book collection. Follow him on Twitter.