WA: Man Accused of Poaching Bears
January 13, 2010
Man Accused of Poaching Bears Investigators Believe Suspect Wanted to
Sell Bear Gall Bladders
SEATTLE - A Japanese psychiatrist, who keeps a home in Seattle, is in big
trouble. Investigators believe he was hunting black bears here in western
Washington and then selling their body parts on the black market.
Dr. Tohru Shigemura is accused of stockpiling weapons, poaching animals
and trying to smuggle their parts overseas.
It's a bizarre, but lucrative trade that investigators say is getting
more popular. Mike Cenci, Deputy Chief Dept. of Fish and Wildlife says
"essentially the rarer the critter, the more value it has."
Investigators say Dr. Shigemura was after the gall bladders of black
bears. In Asia, they're used for medicinal purposes, to increase
circulation. "In Japan they go for thousands and thousands of dollars" Cenci
Detectives were tipped off about the psychiatrist's activities back in
April of 2007. Undercover officers watched Shigemura and gathered evidence
over the next few years.
Shigemura owns an upscale condo along Lake Washington. Neighbors say they
had no idea what was going on; there was no smell or obvious signs that
something was wrong.
Investigators searched the condo in 2009 and found 11 high-powered
weapons; plus hides and gall bladders from Washington black bears.
Investigators say Shigemura bought the weapons by going to several sporting
goods stores and lying about his citizenship on the ATF application.
"He certainly admitted to our undercover officers that he knew what the
rules were and he admitted to falsifying the forms" Cenci said.
Shigemura was caught in 2008 smuggling bear gall bladders out of the US
and only got a slap on the wrist. Investigators hope these latest charges
will bring a far more serious punishment.
Investigators believe Dr. Shigemura is back in Japan. He's supposed to be
in court on January 20th.
If you have any information about poaching activities, you can call the
Department of Fish and Wildlife hotline at 877-WDFW-TIP.
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