Vietnam’s bear bile farms are collapsing — but it may not be good news

Consumer interest in farmed bear bile seems to be declining in Vietnam, according to a new study. But this isn’t necessarily good news, researchers say, because it raises concerns for both captive and wild bears. In Vietnam, more than 1,000 bears — mostly the Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus) and the sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) — live on farms across the country. They’re held in cages for their bile, a brownish-yellow liquid stored in their gall bladders, which is extracted using catheters for use as a common ingredient in Asian traditional medicine to treat liver and kidney disease. In the 1990s, bear farms mushroomed across Vietnam in response to the growing demand for bear bile. These farms in theory were meant to reduce pressure on wild bears. In 2005, bile extraction was made illegal, but bear farms continue to persist in the country, mainly due to a loophole allowing people to keep the bears they already had. Farmed bear bile, however, has failed to satisfy consumer demand, the recent study published in Oryx found, adding to the growing evidence that Vietnam’s bear farming industry is in decline. The number of bears in Vietnam’s bear farms has also fallen from around 4,500 in 2005 to about 1,200 in 2015. This decline in consumer interest is leading to a decline in care for the captive bears, researchers found. Farmers are now spending very little on food for the bears, for instance. “Farmers are now spending just $4 a month on food for…

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Original Post by Mongabay

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