A Perth-founded bear rescue group has achieved a record result in Laos this week but now faces a potential accommodation crisis as it needs more enclosures to house new arrivals.
Free The Bears, founded by 81-year-old Mary Hutton in 1993, has so far saved more than 900 of the animals and achieved its best ever one-day result on Monday when it seized five moon bears from three different locations.
The first pair, aged three months old, were found malnourished at a bamboo paper factory following a tip off from government sources.
They then pointed to a cassava plantation, where another pair of cubs, aged about seven months, were found in a better condition as they had been eating vegetation.
The group then rescued a nine-month-old male from someone who was keeping him illegally.
All of the bears are now being cared for at the charity's Luang Prabang Sanctuary in Laos where there is plenty of room to expand but new enclosures are needed as "a matter of urgency", Dr Hutton told AAP.
The group rescued 13 bears last year, 11 so far this year and more are expected in coming months as the government has stepped up its efforts to help.
Dr Hutton said a big part of those efforts was educating locals that it was illegal to trade wildlife as many were unaware.
The bears are used as a tourist attraction, sold into the exotic pet market or "chopped up for meat", Dr Hutton said.
They cannot be returned to the wild once they have been kept in captivity as they then rely on humans for food, she said.
It's also dangerous, with poachers about, and little of their natural habitat remains, Dr Hutton added.
Perth Zoo's two sun bears, Jamran and Bopha, were rescued by the charity.
Jamran was found outside a restaurant, and was destined to be dismembered and sold as an edible "delicacy", while Bopha was being kept as a pet.
Dr Hutton founded the group after she saw a news story about moon bears being held in cages unable to move, with dirty catheters inserted directly into their gall bladder to "milk" their bile.
Australian Associated Press