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Demand for illegal bear bile sores in Asia

By Lucy Brake - 13 May 2011 11:8:0 GMT
Demand for illegal bear bile sores in Asia

According to TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network sposored by the World Wildlife Fund and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the poaching of bears in Asia is driven mainly by the increasing demand for their bile. Bear bile is used as a key ingredient in many traditional medicines, sold commonly as pills, powders and flakes.

Investigations by TRAFFIC has found illegal bear bile products on sale throughout Asia. In particular, these products were discovered in over 50 percent of the retail outlets checked throughout mainland China, Malaysia and Hong Kong.

TRAFFIC believes that the trade in illegal bear products is strong with the majority of the sources thought to have come from Japan and Russia. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) prohibits the international trading of some of the bear parts found, including the Asiatic Black Bears and the Sun Bears.

International trade in bear bile is simply not allowed under CITIES, but that doesn't stop poachers. Senior Programme Officer of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia and lead author of this latest report Kaitlyn-Elizabeth Foley, says ''unbridled illegal trade in bear parts and products continues to undermine CITES which should be the world's most powerful tool to regulate cross-border wildlife trade''. The problem, according to TRAFFIC, is in the failure to implement CITIES restrictions.

Not only has the report investigated the bear products that are on sale throughout Asia, but it has also gone directly to the source. The concern is that the majority of the farms which are producing bear products seem to depend on wild bears being captured. Foley says that ''the study makes a clear case for authorities to shut down businesses selling illegal bear products and prosecute individuals caught selling, buying, transporting or keeping bears illegally''.

In addition to the mounting pressure on the wild bear populations from the illegal trade in bile is the concern for human health from the potentially contaminated bear products due to the conditions in some of the Asian bear farms.

Image Credit: Bush Warriors.