Notorious Wildlife Market Raided in Laos

On 13th September 2016, Free the Bears provided support and technical assistance to the Lao PDR Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry (MAF) to clamp down on illegal wildlife markets in Laos.  A crack team comprised of MAF, Department of Forest Inspection (DOFI), Ministry of Justice and Free the Bears was assembled to target several roadside markets surrounding the city of Vang Vieng, resulting in items being confiscated from 43 traders of wildlife. This was not the first time these markets had been raided; however, hopefully it will be the last. Several repeat offenders have been charged with wildlife crimes as a direct result of our actions.   Government officers seized a large number of bear and other wildlife parts including bear limbs, gall bladders, claws, fur, teeth and bile. These markets are well known centres for the illicit trade in wildlife in central Laos with live cubs frequently being offered for sale. Just weeks ago a severed Sun bear head was openly displayed amongst a sea of other wildlife parts. In conjunction with the Lao government agencies we are in the process of identifying numerous animal remains as part of ongoing research into wildlife forensics – with specific reference to identifying bear parts in the black market trade.

Wildlife parts hanging for sale in Laos market
Wildlife parts being openly sold in Laos // © Free the Bears

In addition to the market inspections, MAF and Free the Bears conducted a four-hour community meeting the following day aimed at delivering a lasting impact.  All members of the community were invited to attend the meeting, during which time government officials took the time to explain in detail the laws protecting wildlife, encouraged discussion on what could and could not be traded, and told the community, in no uncertain terms, that the illegal trade in wildlife ends now.  Free the Bears are currently in discussion with our government partners to develop a national plan to ensure bears are fully protected, the illegal trade ends, and the demand for wildlife is reduced through the various projects of our Laos Programme for Bear Rescue and Conservation.


Officers conduct raid on wildlife market in Laos
Government officers remove evidence during a raid on a market in Laos // © Free the Bears


While this event has been considered a success, we are gearing up for what we expect to be a very busy few years; we have rescued four bears this year and are planning a number of rescues in the coming weeks and months.  With the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre at capacity, we need your support to help us build a new home for rescued bears in Laos by donating today.