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Thursday, Aug 21, 2014

Asia

Parts of 2,800 bears seized in Asia over a 12-year period

AsiaOne | Thursday, Aug 21, 2014

Many bear cubs were rescued from the illegal trade in Vietnam and cared for in the Animals Asia sanctuary there.

PARTS of 2,800 bears have been seized in Asia over the past 12 years according to wildlife trade monitoring network, Traffic.

The new analysis has raised awareness on Asia's current widespread bear trade and called for immediate international action.

Findings have shown that bear seizures have been made in 17 Asian countries and territories. It was also found that there has been a staggering illegal trade in bears and their parts in the region.

The 700 seizures or so showed a minimum of 2,801 bears that would have been traded for their parts and derivatives between 2000 and 2011.

The reported seizures mostly involved Cambodia (190), China (145), Vietnam (102), Russia (59), Malaysia (38), Thailand (29), Laos (29) and India (23).

Singapore has been identified as one of the important cross border trade routes by the findings that were published in Brought to Bear: an Analysis of Seizures across Asia. Other routes include Nepal to India, Laos to Vietnam and China, Myanmar to China and Thailand and Vietnam to Japan and Singapore.

Bears are traded for a wide range of reasons that include using them to stock bile farms and for the pet or dancing bear trade. Bears are also trafficked for their parts, meat, skins and trophies while their gall bladders and bile are used to manufacture traditional medicines.

The cross-border trade in live bears, and their parts and derivatives violates national laws throughout the region as well as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Russia and China accounted for 69 per cent of the trade volume, which equates to a minimum of 1,934 bears. This was primarily due to the seizure of more than 6,000 bear paws. The significant seizures in Russia and along the border with China suggest a highly frequent trade in bears and their parts between the two countries.

The confiscation of live bears make it the second most commonly seized commodity after bear paws. Live bears seized from border provinces in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand were potentially en route to bear bile extraction facilities, also known as bear farms.

Gall bladders were also confiscated. The demand for such medication is high therefore the prolific trade, wrote Traffic. This in turn plays a role in the deterioration of bears in the Asian region.

According to regional director of Traffic Southeast Asia, Dr Chris R. Shepherd, the seizures only stop a fraction of the overall trafficking due to the high demand and availability of bear products all over Asia.

The report recommends that countries take appropriate steps to comply with the Convention and to improve regional law enforcement efforts.

"Where enforcement of laws protecting bears is taken seriously, it can be a tremendous deterrent", said Dr Shepherd.

ssandrea@sph.com.sg

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