move over panda.

About the Moon Bear

What about it?

The Asian Black Bear, nicknamed the “Moon Bear” because of the crescent shaped white patch of fur on its chest, is a species vulnerable to extinction that few of us have heard of. Despite its relatively low profile, the Moon Bear ranks 3rd on the National Geographic’s list of endangered bears – that’s only two spots under the Giant Panda. Similarly to the famous and beloved Panda, the Moon Bear faces danger to extinction due to its shrinking habitat. Unlike the Panda, however, it faces another, more disturbing threat: the bear bile farming industry. Bear bile, taken from the gal bladder, is a valuable commodity that is used in a number of traditional Chinese medicinal products. These bears fall victim to bile harvesting so commonly that they are sometimes referred to as “bile bears.”

The bear farming industry:

What exactly does bile farming entail? Generally, bears are kept in captivity, often in structures known as “crush cages” which limit the bear’s mobility, preventing it from standing or in some cases limiting movement entirely. Bile is generally harvested through rubber catheters that are permanently implanted, causing the bears a great deal of pain and suffering. Bears have been known to live under these conditions for 10-12 years (see Wikipedia for more info and stats).

Bear farming and the sale of bear products is legal in China, with the number of bears being farmed cited as between 7,000 and 10,000 by the Animals Asia Foundation (The Journal of Chinese Medicine). Although China has stated that it discourages this industry, there is little evidence that much has been done to discourage and/or eliminate the practice. Bear bile farming and trade is legal but regulated in Japan. While the industry is technically illegal in Korea and Vietnam, there is still an active black market for bear body parts and products, and it is unclear what these governments are doing to regulate it.

Call to action

All endangered and vulnerable species deserve protection, however it is truly horrifying that so few people know about the circumstances under which the Moon Bear population has become so depleted. Don’t just support animals that are “cute”! Show that you care — donate now and help support the work of Jill Robinson and the Animal Asia Foundation, actively rescuing bears and working to end bear farming for good.

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