Volunteers with the Bear Necessity Korea group visited Bear Tree Park in Chungchondong, a 90 minute drive from Seoul.
The former Asiatic bear farm has been transformed into an animal sanctuary by its owners, who no longer breed the animals to extract and sell their bile.
|A bear enclosure at Bear Tree Park in Chungchondong. (Belynda Azhaar)|
Campaigners say that more than 1,000 bears are still being kept for bile extraction in farms in South Korea, and it is estimated that there are around 100 bear farms still in operation here. The bile is taken from bears while they are still alive to be used for traditional medicines.
A bill to outlaw the practice is currently awaiting discussion in the National Assembly.
The 15 volunteers filled out surveys and took notes on the conditions for the estimated 150 bears living there.
“Our objective is the documentation of bear care, facility maintenance, and to observe any changes in the quality of bear care,” said Kelly Frances, founder of Bear Necessity Korea, which campaigns to protect the animals and organized the trip.
While some changes had been made to the park since the group’s last visit ― such as the addition of swings for the bears ― she said more needed to be done to match facilities with regulations prescribed by the World Association for Zoos and Aquariums.