Illegal bear trade still persists in Việt Nam

November 18, 2016 - 16:15

The illegal market for bears and bear parts is still strong in Việt Nam despite the introduction of legislation to ban their sale in 2006.

Experts from Animals Asia’s Việt Nam Bear Rescue Centre in Tam Đảo National Park recently rescued four Asian black bears from two farms in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai.— Photo
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI — The illegal market for bears and bear parts is still strong in Việt Nam despite the introduction of legislation to ban their sale in 2006.

This revelation stems from the latest research by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.

Released yesterday on the sidelines of the Hà Nội Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade and titled An assessment of the trade in bear bile and gall bladders in Việt Nam, the report analysed data from surveys of shops in six cities across Việt Nam in 2012 and 2016.

The report has provided evidence of a range of bear products still being put on offer. Of the 70 traditional medicine and other outlets surveyed in 2016, 40 per cent had bear products for sale, down from 56 per cent in 2012.

Raw bear bile was the most prominent product that was openly available. Much of it is reportedly sourced from bear farms in the country. Surveys showed more traders were aware of the illegality of this trade in 2016, and the authors suggest this could mean it had been driven underground.

Bear gall bladders are the most expensive product available for sale, but the number of outlets selling them dropped from 12 in 2012 to only two in 2016, where neither admitted to storing the product on the premises. However, the traders claimed it was sourced from wild bears in Việt Nam, Laos PDR, Russia and Thailand. Consumers were said to be willing to pay more, up to double the price, for wild-sourced, freshly harvested products.

“Although our study found bear bile farming was unlikely to be profitable and is in decline in Việt Nam, the sale of wild-sourced products is particularly alarming and highlights the ongoing threat to bear populations across Asia,” said Lalita Gomez, a project officer with TRAFFIC and an author of the new report.

The researchers found that the current trade dynamic strongly suggests bear farming may have increased threats to wild bear populations in Southeast Asia, creating a network of captive facilities where it is relatively easy to pass off trapped wild bears as domestic ones.

“TRAFFIC offers full support to the Vietnamese government in developing an action plan to eliminate all illegal bear farms by 2020 and enforce legislation on the illegal trade of bear products,” said Madelon Willemsen, head of TRAFFIC in Việt Nam.

“Although the legislation is in place to protect bears, Việt Nam needs to ensure it is adequately enforced,” said Willemsen.

In the 1990s, bear bile farms were established throughout Việt Nam to address the increasing consumer demand. Under legislation introduced in Việt Nam in 2006, it became illegal to hunt, transport, keep, advertise, sell, purchase and consume bear species or their parts and derivatives. — VNS