2022 Annual Review
Care for Bears in Hwacheon
1. Built temporary outdoor enclosure
Project Moon Bear is caring for bears rescued in June 2021 in collaboration with Korea Animal Rights Advocates (KARA). Initially, the plan was to construct a sanctuary and relocate the bears within a year. However, due to construction delays, we built a temporary outdoor enclosure for the captive bears. Although small, it offers the bears an opportunity to step on soil and grass for the first time. Bears who had lived their entire lives on concrete floors got their first opportunity to experience nature.
The bears' daily lives have become more enriching with the construction of an outdoor enclosure. In addition to stepping into a new space, they undergo necessary training to enter the enclosure, which encourages them to think of ways to get the chance to eat delicious food. This process has become a joyful routine in the bears' daily lives.
The installation of the enclosure was also meaningful for us as we plan to build a sanctuary. It was a valuable experience of actualizing a protection facility we had only envisioned for a long time. Through this process of considering technical aspects of construction, we gained knowledge for building a better facility in the future. Previously, we could only offer limited things for the bears confined to cramped cages. Now, we can provide them an enriched environment with trees, swimming pools, rocks, and stones.
By demonstrating that the once-bile-exploited bears are becoming the subjects of care, we hope to deliver the need for a change in human-animal relationships and promote the necessity for sanctuary to the public in South Korea.
2. Hired full-time staff members in Hwacheon
We have hired three full-time staff members to stay in Hwacheon and care for the bears. The first two staff members were hired on July 22, and the third was employed in December. Before hiring full-time staff, voluntary staff members have been visiting Hwacheon every weekend to take care of the bears since the rescue. However, we found this was insufficient to properly care for the bears. Although the expense of hiring full-time staff is burdensome to our budget, we made the big decision to benefit the bears.
As the bears are taken care of on a daily basis, we noticed significant changes in bears. Previously, we had been concerned about their lack of weight gain despite being fed a lot of food during our weekend care. As we started managing their diet every day, however, the bears gained enough weight to dispel our worries.
The caregivers' role in interacting with bears is crucial in facilitating the bears' use of their new outdoor enclosure. The caregivers are putting effort to make the bears enjoy the unfamiliar environment. Their role includes trainings of bears to go out and play and return to their cages according to human signals. This allows staff to clean the cages and provide new enrichment items. The bears also need training to get along with each other so that several bears can use the enclosure at the same time. All of the training provides joyful stimulus which enrich the bears' daily lives.
Promote private bear sanctuary in Korea
Similar to last year, we endeavored to establish a private bear sanctuary in 2022. However, despite our efforts, we were unable to secure a suitable construction site and gather the necessary funds, which resulted in our inability to construct the sanctuary this year. Nevertheless, we remain committed to building a private sanctuary in Korea. Demonstrating the improved lives of bears in our care, we highlight the need for a sanctuary.
Participate in policy making to end bear farming
1. A joint agreement on ending bear farming (26/01/2022)
In January 2022, the Ministry of Environment, civic groups, the Korea Bear Farmers Association, and local governments convened to make a joint declaration to end bear farming for bile extraction and agreed to collaborate and develop future measures. This declaration marks a significant milestone, as the government, which had previously not acknowledged its responsibility for the bear bile farming problem, has now taken proactive measures to play its role as the responsible party. For over four decades, Korea's bear farming industry for bile extraction has been a source of social controversy due to the mistreatment and neglect of endangered species in poor captive environments. The industry has also caused casualties resulting from bear escapes. We hope that this declaration will serve as a catalyst for society to reflect on our outdated human-animal relationship.
2. Participation in the design of the public bear sanctuaries
The Ministry of Environment has announced plans to construct two bear sanctuaries in Gurye, Jeollanam-do Province, and Seocheon, Chungcheongnam-do Province. Project Moon Bear is actively participating in the design of these sanctuaries, providing as much input as possible from the basic plan to their final design.
After facing numerous challenges and setbacks, the construction of Gurye's sanctuary is now scheduled to begin in June of this year and is expected to be completed by June of next year. Managing and operating the sanctuary is the biggest concern that needs to be addressed. Seocheon's sanctuary is a large-scale facility that aims to protect not only captive bears but also other wild animals in captivity. Our challenge is to combat society's tendency to fail to distinguish between a sanctuary and a zoo.
3. Petition for the Special Act on captive bears
After declaring the end of bear farming on January 22, the Ministry of Environment drafted the 'Special Act on the Prohibition of Bear Farming and Protection of Captive Bears' through a public-private consultative body and completed the bill proposal. However, the bill has been pending in the National Assembly for over half a year, neglecting the urgent issue of bear farming. This proposed bill aims to ban bear farming for bile extraction and trading of bear bile, while also providing measures to manage bears on farms. In response, Project Moon Bear and others civic groups have launched national petitions and public campaigns urging the National Assembly to pass the bill. We remain fully committed to our efforts and will continue to work towards passing the bill this year.
Captive Wildlife Welfare Campaigns
1. Urged the amendment of the Act on the Management of Zoos and Aquariums
In May 2022, Project Moon Bear and fellow civic groups held a joint press conference to urge the revision of the Act on the Management of Zoos and Aquariums. With the support of many people, the amendment was successfully passed.
The amendment will bring significant changes to the operation of animal display facilities. Previously, only simple documents were required to register and operate a zoo, but now, permission is required after meeting specific requirements, such as standards for animal enclosure environments. Furthermore, the introduction of a professional inspector system allows for investigating facilities and evaluating their overall appropriateness.
To ensure that the passage of this amendment actually results in improved welfare of captive wildlife, we are fully committed to preparing detailed follow-up regulations and closely monitoring the enforcement process of the law.
2. Stop the disposal of Chimpanzees Gwangboki and Gwansoony
In April 2022, Seoul Grand Park Zoo attempted to dispose of two chimpanzees, Gwangboki and Gwansoony, by transferring them to Taman Safari, a zoo with animal experience programs in Indonesia. The reason cited for the relocation was that the space for keeping the two chimpanzees at the Seoul Grand Park Zoo was small, and it was difficult to integrate them with other chimpanzees.
However, Taman Safari has been notorious for animal mistreatment, including abusing elephants with sharp tools and drugging lions for photography, which caused international outrage. We voiced concerns about the excessive disposal of the two chimpanzees, given that Taman Safari is unlikely to provide better conditions than Seoul Grand Park Zoo. Thanks to many people's efforts against the transfer, Seoul Grand Park Zoo ultimately abandoned its plan.
Relocation to a new living environment is a significant change for animals. While transferring animals is not a problem itself, but the challenge arises as animals will face difficulties adapting to their new surroundings. It is crucial to ensure that the new environment is superior to the previous one, prioritizing the happiness and best interests of the animals in the decision-making process.
3. Produced YouTube content
Since April 2022, we have been producing a series of our own content called <Bear Curiousity> and posting it on YouTube. Our goal is to create and share videos covering various topics, including why wild animals should not be kept in captivity and the differences between sanctuaries and zoos, with a broader audience. Our skills in chatting, filming, and editing are still a work in progress, and we're trying to improve and create more videos worth watching!
1. Lectures at Chungui Middle School, Edongshi Fantasy School
We gave a lecture on animal welfare to first-year students of Chungui Middle School. During our lecture, we talked about the needs of animals and the distinction between animal rights and animal welfare. At the “Fantasy School: Making a Space That Is Not Hell,’ hosted by Edongshi (Story, Animal and Poetry), we talked about the issue of captive bears and sanctuary.
2. Campaign funding
We conducted a campaign funding collaboration with Green Bliss and Oboy to raise awareness about captive bears and our project. We successfully achieved 4039% of our target amount and are delighted with the outcome. However, we also recognize the importance of producing and consuming less.
Thanks to our supporters, Bandi, we were encouraged and empowered to carry out our activities. Our mission to end the bear bile industry is ongoing in 2023, and we will continue to make every effort to achieve our goal. Please stay tuned for updates on our progress. We ask for your continued interest and participation. Thank you for your support!