Absurd Asian Medical Myths Fuel Brutal Bear Captivity

Image: Captive bear, Mike Prince, CC BY 2.0

Report exposes horrific world of Asian wildlife trafficking, where bear bile is big business

| More than 10,000 captive animals in gruesome Chinese bear farms 

| October 25, 2019

CNN – For more than five years, mutilated bear carcasses appeared all over the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Many were missing their genitals and gall bladders.

To solve the mystery, the state’s Forest Department set up a special task force.

Ritesh Sarothiya, head of the task force’s wildlife division, told CNN that its agents had a suspect in mind: in 2014, a man had been arrested for poaching sloth bears and tigers.

After spending a year in jail, he skipped bail and slipped under the radar.

The agents also had a theory as to why the bears were missing some of their body parts. Bear gall bladders are a source of bile, a fluid secreted by the liver and used in traditional medicines across Asia.

Ursodeoxycholic acid, one of its main components, has been medically proven to help dissolve gallstones and treat liver disease. But its other uses lack scientific evidence.

Most Asian countries have laws prohibiting domestic sales, and the international trade of bear products is prohibited under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Yet the market is enormous, and thousands of bears remain trapped in bile farms across Asia, where they’re kept alive so the fluid can be regularly extracted to meet consumer demand.

Poachers look to India

Asiatic black bears are the preferred source of gall bladders. They’re listed as vulnerable under IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species — as are sloth bears, which are also protected by India’s Wildlife Protection Act.

Also known as moon bears due to the cream-colored crescent on their chest, Asiatic black bears have traditionally been poached in the wild in Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia and Malaysia … Read more. 

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