The gall bladders of bears are gaining notoriety due to increases in bear poaching and perhaps because of a new show on the National Geographic Channel. The Modesto Bee reports the lead for a new show, “Wild Justice,” shows a poached black bear in California which has had its large gall bladder removed.
The Humane Society of the United States website lists the market for poached bear parts may come from China, where bear gall bladders are used in traditional Chinese medicine. China also serves bear paw soup. Gall bladders may fetch up to $3,000 each.
This alarming new trend has environmentalists concerned. Bears have relatively stable populations in North America, and if more bears are being threatened, it could make their situation worse. Here’s a look at how bears could suffer as compared to other animals who are trafficked for their parts.
Many nations have outlawed the poaching of elephant ivory, including most countries in Africa with elephant populations, according to Time magazine. The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) banned the sale of ivory from elephants from 1989 until 1997.
Since then, limited sales have made ivory even more profitable, despite its illegality. Some ivory is on the market and rare due to naturally occurring deaths of elephants and stockpiles in certain countries. Because there is some marketability for the product, poachers will go out and kill elephants to make a profit.
In 2007 alone the price of ivory went from $200 per kilogram to $850 per kilogram, and the price doubled again by 2009. If the trend continues, African elephants will lose much of their range by 2020.
Whale meat is a delicacy in Japan and illegal to consume in the United States. Still, the Washington Post reports a restaurant in Los Angeles closed its doors due to the illegal sale of whale meat.
The Hump restaurant shut down in March 2010 when it was discovered whale meat was on the menu in October 2009. DNA samples taken were identical to that of a whale killed by Japanese scientists hunting a sei whale. Sei whales are a protected species and their products are illegal in international markets.
Whaling was banned globally in 1996, but Japanese hunters get around the ban by saying their practices are for scientific study. Several hundred whales are killed by Japanese harpoons every year. Iceland, Norway and Japan are the only countries actively engaging in whale hunting.
Markets for Animals
If economics are any indication, supply and demand will only mean more killing of bears. The demand for whale meat has declined, so populations have increased. The sale of ivory to Asian nations has increased, so the price of ivory has also gone up.
If bear gall bladders become a huge business for Americans suffering from job losses, then it only stands to reason some will carry out an illegal hunt and trade for bear parts. Even bears taken during bear-hunting season can’t have parts traded outside the United States, otherwise an illegal trade would develop and over-hunting can happen. That’s the reason for having international trade bans on animal parts.
Hopefully states like California will have resources to help reduce bear poaching. When many states consider budget cuts to their state agencies, it may foster illegal poaching of bears to be sold to clients in China.
Weiser, Matt, “TV show captures state justice gone ‘wild,'” Modesto Bee.
The Human Society of the United States, “The Bear Trade–Questions and Answers.”
Walsh, Bryan, “African Nations Move to ‘Downlist’ the Elephant,”Time.
Harden, Blaine, “DNA test finds whale meat illegally served in restaurants was from Japan hunt,”Washington Post.
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, “Bears.”