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Ille­gal trade in wild bear parts and prod­ucts must be erad­i­cated, high­lights Inter­na­tional conference

pub­lished 30 Novem­ber 2012 | mod­i­fied 05 Decem­ber 2012

Moon bears climbingThe real life coun­ter­part of Rud­yard Kipling’s Baloo faces severe pres­sure from ille­gal trade and strong enforce­ment efforts are needed to pro­tect wild bears in Asia, del­e­gates to an inter­na­tional con­fer­ence on bear con­ser­va­tion were told.

More than 300 experts from 37 coun­tries gath­ered in India at the 21st Con­fer­ence of the Inter­na­tional Bear Asso­ci­a­tion held from 26-​30th Novem­ber 2012, to dis­cuss a wide range of bear con­ser­va­tion, research and man­age­ment issues. Asia’s bears are of spe­cial con­cern as demand for their parts for use in tra­di­tional med­i­cines has increas­ingly become a seri­ous threat to the con­ser­va­tion of these species. The ille­gal trade in bear bile and other bear prod­ucts was high­lighted by TRAF­FIC and oth­ers, with the threats to Asia’s wild bear species being of extreme con­cern.

One of the great­est obsta­cles is the lack of aware­ness and con­cern amongst the pub­lic and rel­e­vant author­i­ties regard­ing the wide range of threats to bear con­ser­va­tion around the world
Chris Shep­herd, Deputy Direc­tor of TRAF­FIC in South-​East Asia »

In 2011, TRAF­FIC launched Pills, pow­ders, vials and flakes: The bear trade in Asia a report based on an inves­ti­ga­tion of the trade in bear parts across 13 coun­tries and ter­ri­to­ries in South-​East and East Asia. The report found evi­dence of wide­spread ille­gal sourc­ing and trade in wild bears and rec­om­mended increased efforts to enforce national laws, and bet­ter imple­ment the Con­ven­tion on Inter­na­tional Trade in Endan­gered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in the region.

Efforts to shut down the ille­gal trade in bear parts in Asia are essen­tial,” Dr Chris R Shep­herd, TRAFFIC’s Deputy Direc­tor in South-​East Asia, told con­fer­ence del­e­gates. “In par­al­lel to increas­ing enforce­ment efforts, it is impor­tant that steps are taken to reduce demand for bear prod­ucts, through rais­ing the aware­ness of laws and con­ser­va­tion issues, and through the pro­mo­tion of legal herbal and syn­thetic alter­na­tives to bear bile amongst tra­di­tional med­i­cine users.”

The con­fer­ence saw the release of the first “National Bear Con­ser­va­tion and Wel­fare Action Plan 2012” by the Min­istry of Envi­ron­ment and Forests, India, which was offi­cially launched by the Hon­ourable Indian Envi­ron­ment Min­is­ter, Mrs Jayan­thi Natara­jan.

TRAF­FIC was encour­aged by the Minister’s com­mit­ment to increase efforts to safe­guard the four species of bears found in India. Con­fer­ence del­e­gates also heard about the remark­able change in atti­tude towards bears in India, with the trade in Sloth Bears for road­side per­for­mances all but elim­i­nated for exam­ple. How­ever, chal­lenges still exist in India, includ­ing human-​bear con­flict issues, habi­tat loss and per­sis­tent poach­ing for ille­gal trade — all issues flagged as seri­ous con­cerns in the National Bear Con­ser­va­tion and Wel­fare Action Plan.

The recent IUCN res­o­lu­tion con­cern­ing the threat to wild bear pop­u­la­tions and their con­ser­va­tion was also pre­sented at the con­fer­ence. Among other things, the res­o­lu­tion calls for the clo­sure of all ille­gal bear bile farms in Asia.

More than 100 papers were pre­sented at the con­fer­ence on diverse aspects of bear research, con­ser­va­tion and wel­fare, from global warm­ing affect­ing Polar Bears in Canada, to the wide­spread ille­gal use of snares in Lao PDR, to the con­tin­u­ing trade in bear bile prod­ucts in Malaysia, to reha­bil­i­ta­tion efforts for Sloth Bear kalan­dars in India.

The 21st Inter­na­tional Con­fer­ence on Bear Research and Man­age­ment was organ­ised jointly by the Inter­na­tional Bear Asso­ci­a­tion, Min­istry of Envi­ron­ment and Forests, Cen­tral Zoo Author­ity of India, the IUCN SSC Bear Spe­cial­ist Group, Wildlife Insti­tute of India, Wildlife Trust of India, World Soci­ety for the Pro­tec­tion of Ani­mals and the Inter­na­tional Fund for Ani­mal Welfare.

India is home to four of the eight species of bears found world­wide — mak­ing it one of the only two coun­tries with this diver­sity, the other being China.

The Indian bears include the sloth bear (Melur­sus ursi­nus), the Asian black bear (Ursus thi­betanus), the Himalayan brown bear (Ursus arc­tos) and the Malayan sun bear (Helarc­tos malayanus). Sloth bears are endemic to the Indian sub-​continent and have gone extinct fairly recently from Pak­istan and Bangladesh, under­scor­ing the threats to the species of habi­tat loss and increas­ing human inter­face. The black bears and brown bears inhabit the Himalayan and sub-​Himalayan regions, while the sun bears are found in very small num­bers along the north­east Indian bor­der. The bears have an almost pan-​India dis­tri­b­u­tion, being found in 26 of the 28 Indian states.

(Source: National Bear Con­ser­va­tion and Wel­fare Action Plan — India)

The above news item is reprinted from mate­ri­als avail­able at TRAF­FIC. Orig­i­nal text may be edited for con­tent and length.
(Source: TRAF­FIC lat­est news, 30.11.2012)
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