The “Free The Bears” organization has an active program in six Asian countries to end the practice of bear bile farming. Bear bile and gallbladder is a component in Chinese medicine. Farming was at one time thought by some to be an acceptable alternative to hunting in the wild but most of the business, however conducted is now illegal.
Within Laos, most of the illegal trade occurs near the China border. The sanctuary near Luang Prabang has 38 bears with plenty of space and playthings including pools, climbing towers, and toys for stimulation. At noon each day food is hidden around their enclosures to simulate the work that they would need to do to feed themselves in the wild.
At the rescue center they mostly take care of moon bears, otherwise known as the Asian black bear or white chested bear. This bear is prevalent throughout Asia, and is mostly herbivorous, but is apparently very aggressive when approached by humans, as the following report from Japan illustrates.
In Japan, in 2016 three men died in bear attacks while harvesting bamboo shoots in three separate incidents in a mountain forest. The body of a fourth victim, a badly mauled woman, was subsequently discovered with reports saying she had been picking wild plants. Hunters killed an Asian black bear just 10 meters from the spot where her remains were discovered. Officials said Monday that human remains were found in the stomach of the bear. so these cuddly-looking guys can be fierce indeed.