‘Unbearable trade ends now’

The Star Online, 30th May 2015


KUALA LUMPUR: Bear parts are no longer welcome in Malaysia’s traditional medicine shops.

A leading Chinese medicine group is warning its 4,000-plus members not to stock the illegal items after a survey showed that dozens of shops were still stocking them.

“We do not condone the use of bear bile, gall bladders or derivative products,” said Federation of Chinese Physicians and Medicine Dealers Associations of Malaysia secretary-general Kerk Ee Chan.

“The continued usage of bear bile, parts and products will result in severe criminal penalties,” he told reporters here.

Kerk said this after a 2012 survey by wildlife trade watchdog Traffic Southeast Asia showed that 175 of 365 shops in Malaysia were still selling the stuff.

In its May 2015 “Hard to Bear” report, it said 51% of the shops were in peninsular Malaysia. Many sold whole bear gall bladders, bile pills and more.

These are believed to have been taken from Asiatic black bears found in East Asia and sun bears from South-East Asia, including Malaysia.

The sun bear is Malaysia’s only bear. Their numbers are not known, but experts say they are threatened by poachers, logging and development.

Some 13,000 black bears are said to be in East Asian bear farms, where they are caged from youth and later killed for their parts.

Malaysians are one of the region’s highest users of bear parts for medicine, despite being a signatory to a global treaty outlawing black and sun bear organ trade.

Several laws here ban the sale and illegal hunting of bears, many with hefty fines of up to hundreds of thousands of ringgit.

Kerk said he did not know how the shops here got bear part supplies but pledged to find out if any were the group’s members.

“If any of them are (our) members, we will act on them,” he said, adding that they would be reminded of the law.

It is not known how much bears are part of the estimated US$19bil (RM69bil) global illegal wildlife trade each year, though it is believed that they are a large part of the international traditional Chinese medicine trade.

Traffic Southeast Asia regional director Dr Chris Shepherd said it was possible that thousands of bears were killed each year, though little information was available.

He said the survey was also handed over to the Government.

Dr Shepherd added that “there’s room for improvement” in terms of law enforcement.

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