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Presentation aims to spread the word about plight of moon bears

Local Animals Asia volunteer to speak at Aquinas College
Underwriting support from:

Event Information

January 30 from 7 to 8:30 pm

Aquinas College's Jarecki-Lacks Center

Because seating is limited, RSVP by Jan. 29,

either via email or by phone (616-365-9176)



The Bear Facts:

(Courtesy of

Name: Asiatic black bear (Ursus selenarctos Thibetanus)

  • Affectionately called moon bears because of the beautiful yellow crescent moon found on the bears' chests.

  • Moon bears have thick, shaggy fur, ranging in color from ebony black to a lighter brown-black, and big round ears. They have short, strong claws which enable them to climb with ease.

  • Weighing 300 to 440 pounds, males grow to around twice the size of females, which weigh 130 to 285 pounds in the wild. However, the females can often be dominant and can usually be distinguished by the thicker ruff of fur around their necks.

  • Moon bears are typically 4 to 6 feet tall.

  • Moon bears are found across the Asian continent from Pakistan to Japan. They often live at high altitudes and prefer heavily forested areas.

  • Moon bears are classified as carnivores, although they follow an omnivorous diet. Their diet varies according to location and season, but predominantly consists of vegetables, fruits, nuts, insects, small mammals, birds and carrion. Occasionally, moon bears may attack livestock or raid crops.

  • Moon bears are highly intelligent and have a large vocabulary, making clucking sounds during play, "tut-tut-tut" sounds when cautious and huffing sounds when warning or about to attack. Females are more vocal than males.

  • Moon bears tend to be solitary, crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) animals once they reach adulthood. They can survive for up to 35 years in captivity, though usually live for 25 to 30 years in the wild.

  • Moon bears love to makes dens in hollow logs and caves and also sleep in trees. They often hibernate between November and March/April (although this can vary depending on their specific range.)

  • Moon bears may also migrate and spend the warmer months of the year at higher altitudes and then descend to the lowlands during colder months.

  • Moon bears tend to give birth to twins in April or May (but are also known to give birth earlier in hibernation) and although weaned by 4 to 6 months, the cubs stay with their mothers for their first two years.

  • Moon bears are the most valued bears for traditional medicine, partly because the species was so abundant in the areas where traditional medicine originated. Their range extends from Iran to Japan and across Southeast Asia and it is estimated that there are as few as 16,000 left in the wild worldwide.

Asiatic black bears are known as "moon" bears because of the yellow crescent shape on their chest.

Asiatic black bears are known as "moon" bears because of the yellow crescent shape on their chest.

Spreading the message about moon bears' suffering is making a difference. In Grand Rapids, Melissa Malinowski is doing her part to get out the word.

Malinowski is the chair of the West Michigan Animals Asia volunteer group. She will be giving a presentation to educate the public on bear farming, a practice used in China and Vietnam to extract bear bile used in traditional Chinese medicine from moon bears.

The result of bear farming is physical and mental suffering of the bears, who are confined for years in cages too small for them to stand up or move around, then have metal catheters – often unsterilized – inserted to extract bile from their gall bladders. The bears' gall bladders often are damaged, and the catheters are left in place for years, causing infection.

Animals Asia has been working with the Chinese government and Asian bear farmers to stop the practice and rescue the bears. The non-profit organization, founded by Jill Robinson, has helped educate Chinese medicine doctors, the public and the media about the abuse of moon bears and the alternatives to the consumption of bear bile. There are 54 known herbs available with the same or better medicinal qualities, according to Animals Asia.

To date, 381 moon bears have been rescued and 43 bear farms have been closed. That's an increase of 38 bears from last year, when Malinowski gave her first presentation in Grand Rapids.

“There was a large-scale rescue and trek to a farm in Vietnam for 14 bears a couple months ago,” Malinowski said. “This rescue has a wonderful twist – the bears were actually surrendered when one of the four owners of the farm had a change of heart after learning about Animals Asia's work from a television program and decided to give his bears a chance at a happy life.”

Animals Asia Vietnam director Tuan Bendixsen said in a news release that the farmer “had the opportunity to sell the bears to others but for reasons of conscience decided to give them to Animals Asia, and he is now encouraging other bear farmers to do the same.”

Malinowski said she has seen an increase in local animal lovers who are taking action to save the moon bears. The West Michigan volunteer group for Animals Asia has expanded this year into local high school classes and the Humane Society of West Michigan's Kids Camp.

Her presentation, suitable for mature audiences, will include an introduction to moon bears and bear farming, a short documentary, “Moon Bears Rescue … A Decade On,” and an action plan of what can be done locally to help. A question-and-answer session will follow.



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