MAY 06, 2016 8:51 AM PDT

The Horrors of the Bear Bile Trade in Southeast Asia


Bear bile farms are expanding rapidly throughout Southeast Asia, particularly in China, Vietnam and Laos. Bear bile, which is extracted from Asiatic bears and Sun bears that are often seized from the wild and held captive in “farms” or bred in these farms themselves, is used in ancient medicines. It is supposedly helpful for liver diseases, although with conventional medicine, many alternatives exist.

While it was originally thought that these bear farms would help with conservation of bears in the wild, the opposite is now occurring, as the farms only continue the demand for bears and the bile in the market. A third of a teaspoon of bear bile can be sold for $15. While young bears may produce the highest quality bile, older bears may be sold for their body parts, also to be used in traditional medicine.
A bile extraction site on a Sun bear

The most gruesome part of this trade is the conditions in which the bears are kept. Often in cages merely the size of their own bodies, the bears are denied social interactions and many sport rough hairless patches on their skin from rubbing up against the confined cage walls, both because of the lack of space and the stress of their lives. The bears are often declawed and detoothed so that they are easier to handle. Bears are hooked up to catheters and their bile is pumped out of their stomachs to be collected for the medicinal market. The process is excessively painful for the animals, as often a hole is carved into their abdomens and gallbladders to which a fistula attached so that bile can drip out. Yet this results in a dangerous consequence, as bacteria can easily enter the bears’ bodies through these holes and cause infections. Bears often die in the farms because of bacterial diseases and liver cancers, which poses a threat not only to the individual bears but to the consumers of the bile the bears produce.
A worker prepares to drain the bile from a bear at a farm in China, which has more such facilities than any other country.
 
“These bears are intelligent, beautiful animals, and unfortunately they are going the way of the tiger” states Luke Nicholson, the Laos Program Manager of Free the Bears.

There is currently a specific concern about an explosion in the bear trafficking trade in Laos, as the regulations in this poor country are extremely under-enforced.

However, the Free the Bears organization has had some success; this year they rescued six cubs and two adults from the trafficking trade and are now supplying the bears a safe and comforting refuge to live in.



Sources: National Geographic, Stop Animal Cruelty
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
OCT 19, 2020
Plants & Animals
Genetically Engineered Foods Could Alleviate Nutritional Deficiencies
OCT 19, 2020
Genetically Engineered Foods Could Alleviate Nutritional Deficiencies
There are over two billion people around the world that don't get the recommended levels of minerals and vitamins in ...
OCT 27, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Bird abundance falling in remote parts of the Amazon
OCT 27, 2020
Bird abundance falling in remote parts of the Amazon
A new study published in Ecology Letters has documented a consistent fall in biodiversity in the Amazon. The scient ...
OCT 29, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
Scientists Create Antibiotic from Komodo Dragon Blood
OCT 29, 2020
Scientists Create Antibiotic from Komodo Dragon Blood
Researchers from George Mason University in Washington DC have created a synthetic molecule from Komodo Dragon blood tha ...
NOV 24, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Cracking the Code of a Locust Swarm
NOV 24, 2020
Cracking the Code of a Locust Swarm
With a reputation for destruction that goes back to ancient Egypt, locust swarms are once again a major problem for some ...
NOV 30, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Green Genetic Technology Can Help Feed the World
NOV 30, 2020
Green Genetic Technology Can Help Feed the World
In the latter half of the last century, agriculture underwent a technological revolution that enabled farmers to create ...
DEC 17, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Using Tomatoes to Produce a Parkinson's Drug
DEC 17, 2020
Using Tomatoes to Produce a Parkinson's Drug
More and more people are being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease as the world's population ages. Scientists have now en ...
Loading Comments...