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December 2013

Dear Minister of Environment of Korea, please give life to Korean Bears!

Dear all

This has been a good year as we inch forward in promoting the cause of farmed bears in Korea.

At least there seems some prospect of laws to stop farming and we have got on the agenda the idea of sanctuaries. would like to thank you all for your support and wish you a peaceful Christmas season.

G Moon

Merry Christmas from

Dear Minister of Environment of Korea, please give life to Korean Bears!

RE: "A lasting solution to bear farming in Korea"

Dear Minister,

We are writing on behalf of a coalition of the worlds leading animal welfare groups to oppose in the strongest possible terms reports that your Government plans to slaughter bears that have been used in Korean bear farms.

We support the abolition of farming and congratulate you for that but then to slaughter the very bears that are being farmed as a direct result of Government bear farming many years ago is unacceptable and will attract global condemnation.

It is our view that bears well enough to survive despite the appalling treatment at the hands of the farmers should be given the respect they deserve and be permitted to live out their remaining days in peace in predominantly Government funded sanctuaries. China and Vietnam have such sanctuaries and they are a proven model of care. As in the case of China and Vietnam we are also sure the Government would attract some private donations.

When the remaining bears have passed away after some peace in their life the land used for such sanctuaries could be passed over to the community as park land. This will respect the memory of the bears and the enlightened decision by your Government to free them and care for them. Many groups will be ready to support your department in planning for the sanctuaries and how they should be run.

Specifically we call on you to endorse 3 actions:

1. A proper veterinary program supervised by independent vets to determine the health of the bears and to determine which of these are so ill as to be euthanized.

2. The remaining bears NOT to be slaughtered and placed in sanctuaries.

3. The Government to provide land and a budget for such sanctuaries both for up front capital and initial running costs and to work with animal welfare organisations for plans to raise ongoing funding.

Mr Minister,

We all read with interest of Korea’s huge economy and massive reserves of capital and we hope you can find it in your heart to divert a small fraction of this capital to bring to a peaceful conclusion the unfortunate episode in Korea’s history of bear farming.

Sincerely yours,



RE: 한국 사육 곰 제도의 종식을 위한 해결 방안:

윤성규 환경부 장관께,

우 리 반달곰 프로젝트는 아래의 합동 서명이 보여주는 대로, 국내 국외에서 활동하고 있는 여러동물보호협회들과 함께 최근에우수리종 2마리를 제외한 나머지 사육 곰은 보존 가치가 없다고 하신 환경부 장관의 몰지각한 성명서에 대해 깊은 걱정과 엄중한 항의를 표명하는 바입니다.

moonbears.org은 30년 전 한국 정부의 주도로 시작되어 지속되어온 잔인한 한국 사육 곰 종식선언에 대하여 환경부에 찬사를 보내는 한편, 세계의 관심을 한 몸에 받고 있는 멸종위기종의반달사육곰이 보존의 가치가 없다고 말씀에 대하여 심한 우려를 금할 수가 없습니다. 만에환경부가 이를 강행하는 경우 전세계의 지탄과 망신을 맞게 될 것임을 우리 국민 앞에서 분명하게 말씀드리는 바입니다.

일부 몰지각한 곰 농가의 횡포에 현재 생존해 남은 1000여 마리의 사육 곰들은 이제부터라도성의 있는 한국 정부의 배려로 그 여생을 국립 보호소에서 안락하게 살 권리가 있습니다.

지 금 중국과 베트남에서 성공리에 운영되고 있는 여러 곰보호소 시설들이 이를 입증하고있으며, 이들 대개가 100프로 대대적인 세계의 후원금으로 운영되는 바, 한국의 곰보호시설도정부가 관리한다는 사실을 등에 업고 이에 앞으로 많은 개인의 후원금을 유발 시키리라 예상하는 바입니다.

세월이 지나 곰들이 폐사하고 난 연후에는 당 시설을 사육 곰을 기리고 시민을 위한ecotourism의공원으로 탄생키시게 되면 사육 곰을 해방시켜 보호 관리한 한국 정부의 대범한현안에 열광적인 세계의 칭송을 받게될것임을 확신합니다.

또한, 현재 곰보호소의 설립과 보호 관리 운영을 돕고자 이미 명성 있는 세계의 동물 협회들이 줄서있음을 알려드립니다.

이에 환경부는 아래의 세개 조항에 대해 명확히 답변해 주실 것을 요청합니다.

1. 안락사 시킬 사육 곰의 선택은 주먹구구식이 아닌 세계적으로 자타가 공인하는 정 법의수의학 관리 시스템에 기초하여 결정, 공개 진행할 것.

2. 건강한 객체로 판별 된 사육 곰들은 절대 안락사 시키지 않을 것.

3. 국내외 동물보호협회의 도움과 조언을 바탕으로 한 환경부 주도 하의 곰 보호소를 설립하여 살아남은 곰들의 여생이 안락할 수 있도록 최선을 다하고 그 보호 관리에 주력할 것이며, 세월이지난 후 이 시설을 시민이 즐길 수 있는 ecotourism의공원으로 조성할 것.

윤성규 장관님,

우리 모두는 한국이 엄청난 외환을 보유한 최대의 외환 보유국임을 잘 알고 있습니다.

여 태 까지 여러 정권에서 외면해온 불행한 현실을 종식시켜 이 외환의 정말 작은 일부를 곰보호소 설립에 투입하여 한국 역사에 깊이 날인 찍힌 상처 뿐인 한국의 사육 곰 역사가 다시 긍정적으로 쓰여질수 있게 되기를 진심으로 바라는 바입니다. 앞으로도 계속 힘써 노력해 주실 것을 믿습니다.

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November 2013

Cruel protests by Korean bear farmers

G. Moon the founder of today condemned the recent protest by bear farmers in Seoul on November 15, 2013.

In this protest the farmers actually brought 3 bears in cages, no doubt, to call attention to themselves. They are opposing the cessation of bear farming and the environment ministries plan to slaughter the bears freed.

"What many people do not realize is that bears actually spend their whole lives in such cages in Korean bear farms" G Moon said. "This was not just a cage to bring the poor animal to the protest but where it lives while it's gall bladder is inhumanly extracted by the farmers".

The bear farmers are demanding that bear farming come under the responsibility of the agriculture ministry rather than the environment. They say a bear is no different to a cow or a pig.

"This is nonsense" said G Moon, "not even pigs or cows, which are also often treated very badly in Korea, are kept in cages where they cannot move and have a tube in them that constantly and painfully take their bile. "

"This protest exposes the farmers for who they really are. It exposes their cruelty and also the fact they want to see Koreans eating bear meat just so they can increase their profits". "However it is fair that they should get reasonable compensation when the bears are taken as the government originally fostered bear farming in Korea”, she said. is urging the government to ban bear farming, to buy the bears from the farmers and then to establish sanctuaries so the bears can spend the rest of their lives in comfort and peace.

Cruel protests by Korean bear farmers

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RE: Minister accused of being an "animal racist" is dismayed at the actions likely to result from years of lobbying to abolish bear farming in Korea.

Now when finally the disgusting practice is being meaningfully challenged the Governments solution is to slaughter the bears being "freed".

This expedient approach is probably regarded as being humane by the Government and groups such as WSPA.

We should all ask the question how a country with the 3rd largest financial reserves in the world should decide to punish with death the very bears who were being farmed directly as a result of their policies to encourage bear farming many years ago.

We should ask why a fraction of these reserves cannot be used to show these animals the respect they deserve and let then live out their days in peaceful reserves such as those established by Animals Asia in China and Vietnam.

This issue deserves attention in the international media and the Government and others who have agreed to the genocide policy now announced.

Please see my attached press release and get it out there.

Thank you.

Contact -

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RE: 국내 사육 반달곰은 보존의 가치가 없다는 윤성규 환경부 장관의 발언에 대하여

반달곰 프로젝트/ 성명서:

이번 11월 1일 윤장관의 발언은 지난 6년간 한국 반달 사육 곰 제도의 폐지를 위해 하루도 쉬지 않고 열심히 뛰어온 반달곰 프로젝트와 타 동물보호협회의 노력에 찬물을 끼얹은 몰지각한 발언이라 믿어 의심치 않는다.

이 성급한 발언은 그 동안 국내에 꾸준히 조성된 열악한 사육 곰 사업에 대한 여론의 악화를 막고, 여러 세계동물보호단체의 사육 곰 제도 폐지에 대한 한국 정부의 확실한 방향제시 요구에 대한 반동으로 생긴 것으로, 멸종 위기종 일 등급의 한국 사육 반달곰을 보존하고 지키려는 의지는커녕 제 잘못을 덮어버리려는 손 빠른 모습이 보여지는바 이에 심각한 우려를 금할 수가 없다.

우리종이 아니니 가치가 없다는 무책임한 발언은 사육 곰을 관할하는 부처가 농림부가 아니라 왜 환경부이며, 국내의 모든 반달곰은 지리산 종 복원 사업의 일환인 지리산 반달곰 뿐만 아니라 수요가 있을 때마다 밀도살되는 998마리의 사육 반달곰도 CITES (국제멸종위기 종 거래에 관한 협약) 에 포함되는 우리 정부와 민간이 적극 보호 해야 하는 종으로 이의 CITES 협약을 정면으로 거부하는 말이기에 윤장관의 발언은 과연 환경부장관으로써의 자질을 충족한 사람의 입에서 나온 소리인가에 대한 의심과 충격마저 들게 하는 말이다.

올해 정부예산 중 11억이 사육 곰 제도의 폐지와 그 처우개선을 위한 목적으로 환경부에 주어졌음에도 불구하고 그 총 예산을 반달곰 보존은커녕 도살의 방향에 중점을 두었기에 우리는 이에 심각한 문제가 있음을 제기하는 바이다.

현재 한국땅에서 신음하는 사육 반달곰의 개체 수는 모두 합해 998마리.

1980년 초 한국 정부 주도하에 시작된 이후로 곰 농가의 숫자와 정확한 사육 곰의 개체 수, 심지어 암.수의 구분을 짓는 관리 카드 하나 제대로 실행하지 못하는,.. 그리고 곰 사육장의 낙후된 시설이나 동물 학대에 관한 규율을 강도 있게 리드하기는커녕 사육 곰 농가에 질질 끌려 다니며 심지어 무허가 시설에 설치된 곰 사육장에도 한 일침을 주지 못하는 무기력한 환경부를 우리 반달곰프로젝트는 강력히 규탄하는 바이다.

이제라도 환경부는 한국의 사육 곰 문제를 998마리 전부 구출하는 관점으로 성의 있게 임할 것이며, 세계멸종위기 종 제 일 등급으로 분류되어 전세계인의 관심의 대상이나 우리나라에서는 고통 받고 신음하는 반달곰 전 개체에 대한 곰 사육장의 완전 폐지를 선언하고, 환경부는 가능한 빨리 사육 곰을 전 곰 농가로부터 적정가격으로 매입 해방시킨 후, 수컷 곰에 불임수술을 시행하고 이를 어기는 곰 농가에 한해서는 매입이 아닌 강경한 조치로 사육 곰을 강제 인수하며, 정부 허가가 난 땅에 곰 보호소를 설립하고 세계의 반달곰 전문가를 초빙하여 이를 전문적으로 보호 관리하여 그 해당 지역의 eco tourism 의 방안을 모색하는 방향으로 나아가 이 선행이 세계만방에 알려지도록 체계 있는 계획을 세울 것을 하루 빨리 촉구한다.


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Related media link-

전기자동차·사육곰 관리·뉴트리아 퇴치…환경부 내년 6조3000억 투입한다-

환경부장관, ‘사육곰은 보존가치 없는 것’ 발언 논란-

“사육곰, 가치없어 도축” 환경장관의 ‘생명 인식’ 제로-

비디오 영상: 윤 장관 "사육곰 보존가치 없어"-

사육곰 입법안 폐지 국회 통과 물건너 가나-

October 2013

Calls for Complete Abolition of Bear Farming in Korea
By was established in 2007 with the aim to accomplish complete abolition of bear farming. There are 1100 bears suffering daily from the bear farms in Korea. In 1981,the Korean Agriculture Department imported more than 500 moon bears from abroad to boost farming household income by exporting of farmed bears. But due to the global trend of export bans for endangered species, these bears ended up becoming just a nuisance to the bear farmers. Currently these bears are being abused by cost cutting measures by the bear farmers with little water and food. They remain kept in old and dirty cages in the Korean bear farms. Despite the various herbs and lab created medicines to replace bear gall bladder, bears continue to suffer and even die from stress and overwork in the course of illegal draining of their bear gall bladder while still alive. Also, illegal slaughtering & secret trafficking of bear meat is being reported by local media constantly. Their plight is simply appalling.

In the course of protesting against the government policy , one bear farmer even declared that bear blood is to be commercialized as product after certain research. The Korean bear farmers clearly want to legalize bear products for the local markets since exports are now banned internationally.

This issue is the Korean Government's responsibility stemming from its original decision to encourage bear farming. In addition, the Korean Government has not properly regulated and controlled this industry for the last 30 years. Moreover, it is appalling the farmers keep putting pressure on the Government to be compensated for their money losing bear business. This is not agreed by local communities. They do this purely in their own financial interests.

Both the Korean Government and the bear farmers deserve the criticism of society at large and now it is time such criminal acts are no longer tolerated. The Government should be responsible for imposing strict punishment against illegal bear farm owners upon discovering illegal farming. First of all it is quite urgent to promulgate revision of the legislation for related special bear farm laws in order to provide for punishment of such criminal acts. Without having the law, enforcement of laws against illegal activity is impossible. Contrary to the will to protect the nature of the world by the scholars of the globe through the recent IUCN conference in Korea, this cruel system of bear farming casts a dark shadow on this country.

According to the result of the conference, Korea was included in the list of 5 countries that breed moon bears(China, Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar), and IUCN requested the Korean Government to indicate a prompt and clear position to ban bear farming upon its implementation of a new policy. Now at this time the eyes of the world are focusing on the advanced nation of Korea. The 22000 petition signatures being presented today to the Government have been gathered from all over the world. The petitioners are resoundingly calling for the closure of our cruel and shameless bear farming system. Being a leader of the modern world, Korea should pay its respects to life and the environment. Its advanced auto industry and mobile communication devices alone do not prove anything without better animal welfare policies. Just to stress, the moon bears being kept in the bear farms in Korea are clearly an endangered species belonging to Index 1 designated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

The 9 proposals for voluntary elimination of bear farming announced by the Ministry for Environment must be dropped in favor of compulsory ones and if not the Government shall not be able to avoid accusations by the community in general or domestic and international animal protection groups. These rules should be compulsory and apply to all farmers. This is because the larger scale bear farms may not agree with the Government proposal for sterilization operations and could lead to a major increase in the number of bears is anticipated in these farms as a result of the numbers of bears given up by small scale bear farms.

A more effective policy would be, for the Government to first purchase all 1100 moon bears from the farmers and for it to provide step by step sterilization operations upon promulgation of legislation abolishing full scale bear bile farming. Additionally the Government should provide sanctuaries for the remaining bears who can live out their remaining lives in peace.

According to the legend, the Korean peoples' ancestor is the offspring of Ungyeo-a female bear.

As the offspring of a bear, we must save bears from cruel farming cages as soon as possible. Upon the death of bears in their sanctuary, such places can be changed into national parks, symbolizing a space for peace and philanthropy, similar to World Trade Center’s that has re-birthed as a symbol of freedom.

Founder of
Facebook -

September 2013

Jasper's Journey

This beautiful story was created (Written by: Nicola Gothard Illustrated by: Benjamin Rowe) and sponsored by to teach kids about farm bears in the world. We hope you enjoy this beautifully illustrated PPT program.

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July 2013

RE: Latest special law to end bear farming in Korea

One of the latest comments by the Minister of Environment Yoon, Sung Kyu on the cruel Korean bear farming shows yet again the failure of the ministry administrating the policy on the issue. He states it is difficult to spend tax payers money on compensating and buying farmed bears from bear farms and " we have to think about it." He believes it is not the best use of tax payer funds and despite clear proof to the contrary even questions whether the Government introduced bear farming in the first place.

In recent research by Green Korea in a survey of 1000 Korean people it was found that 9 out of 10 people oppose bear farms in Korea. strongly request the following.

The Korean government must compensate because this industry was clearly led by the Korean government in the early 80's. Do not negotiate with bear farmers on the compensation- but compensate them fairly. MOE should strongly regulate the numbers and breeding of farmed bears in each bear farms. If any of these farms do not follow instruction and break the law, delete them from the compensation list. They should be fined.

MOE should consider to build sanctuary plan for 988 bears.

Under the current system- the bears are mostly young and healthy. Often they get secretly slaughtered before reaching 10 years old - which is the age stated by law.

This sanctuary plan should be based on eco tourism which will bring prosperity to the nearby community which will be a win- win situation for bears and the people around them.

웅담 채취용 사육곰 관련 법안 놓고 국회서 '난상토론'윤성규 장관 "사육곰 국가매입은 재고의 여지가 있다" 난색 표명

환경부 장관 윤성규의 답변은 성실하지 못하고 초점을 놓치고 있는 듯 하다. 재임 한지 불과 넉 달 미만. 이 사람이 과연 국내 사육 곰 정책의 폐지에 대해 무엇을 고민하였고 얼마나 연구하였을까. 국민이 낸 세금으로 흥청망청 쓸 수 없다고 한다. 여태 까지 정부기관이 흥청망청망정으로 쓴 세금은 셀 수 조차 없을 지경이다. 공공의 많은 건물과 설비들이 오늘도 무용지물로 무지막지하게 세금을 까먹는 괴물로 전락하고 있다는 사실을 시민들은 너무도 잘 알고 있다. 곰 사육 제도의 종식은 한국 대다수의 시민과 전세계가 요구하는 핫 이슈이다. 정부는 무슨 수를 써서라도 한국의 불명예를 벗어야만 한다. 이것에 대해 세금을 쓰는 것은 지극히 정상적이고도 옳은 일이라 할 수 있다. 이전 이만이 환경부 장관은 한 기자단이 사육 곰 폐지에 대해 묻자 '그게 뭐지'라고 되물었다.

우리가 대답한다.

이는 정부가 반드시 매입 보상해 주어야 할 일이고 ( 1980년 초 당시 현 정부가 사육 곰 정책을 장려,주도 하였다) 보상해 달라는 대로 곰 농가에 보상해 주지 말라. 모든 일에는 순서가 있고 그에 따른 흥정이 필요하다, 여기도 예외는 아니다. 곰 농가와 흥정하되 적정하게 보상을 해 주어라. 엄격한 감사를 하여 각 곰 농가( 60여 가구)에 대한 정확한 사육 곰 숫자 파악하고 이에 곰 증식의 규율을 어기는 곰 농가는 단연코 보상 대상에서 제외 시켜라.

사육 곰의 증식을 억제하며 동시에 구조된 사육 곰들- (한국의 사육 곰들은 그 나이가 어리다- 10살 되기 전에 밀 도살 되는 경우가 허다 하므로. 따라서 988 마리 거의 대부분이 건강한 개체이다.) 988 마리에 대한 곰 보호소 설립의 계획을 동시에 추진하여야 할 것이다. 이 곰 보호소는 주위 지역의 성공을 부추길 수 있는 win win의 eco tourism 방식으로 계획 되어야만 한다. 이렇게 설립된 곰 보 호소에서 구조된 곰들이 나머지의 여생을 편히 살도록 하여야만 한국 사육 곰의 종식은 원만히 성공적으로 이루어져다 말할 수 있을 것이라고 자신하는 바이다.

May 2013

"My pain" - by Shin Band Against Bear Bile Farming

Published on 1 Apr 2013

Keyboardist Tomi Fu and Lead Singer Wen Jie from the successful Taiwanese rock band "Shin Band" wrote this song "My Pain" to raise awareness about the horrible practice of bear bile farming in East Asia. Please feel free to share this video with anyone interested in putting a stop to this horrific industry. For interviews and questions about this project, or if you have a similar charity event, you can contact Tomi Fu directly at

To: Moonbears Org

Dear friends,

My name is John Thompson. I’m a music producer living in Beijing, China and recently finished mixing a song written by my friends Tomi Fu and Liu Wenjie, the keyboardist and lead singer of the hugely successful Taiwanese rock band Shin Band. The song is called “My Pain” and it is about the horrible practice of bear bile farming in East Asia. The song is not released as a single, nor is it available for paid download anywhere. It is on the internet free to the public with its sole purpose to raise awareness about this horrific industry.

You can see the song with the video here on youtube:

The song, with the video, is extremely powerful and emotional, and is sure to incite feelings that only art can ignite. Tomi, the principal writer of the song, has asked me to contact western animal rights organizations and other groups involved with this issue, and suggest links to the video on their sites, or put the video directly on their sites as a promotional tool to help raise awareness of this practice. If you wish to do so, you can download it yourself, or contact me directly at and I can send the video to you. He also would like you to know that if you ever have any charity event regarding bear bile farming, please feel free to contact him, and he and his lead singer would be happy to participate. You can contact him at:

Thank you.

John Thompson

April 2013

Vietnamese urge Koreans not to travel for bear bile

Vietnamese urge Koreans not to travel for bear bile

Some Koreans have a seemingly endless appetite for products that promise to boost their health or sexual prowess, prompting them to eat food items that would seem unconventional by Western standards. One such product is bear bile, known in Asia for its medicinal properties. To get it, a significant number of Koreans are traveling to bear bile farms in Vietnam, where they can buy bile extracted from moon bears raised in cages. The problem is that many of these Korean travelers are unaware that such activities are illegal in Vietnam.

These days, the sale and transport of bear bile has grown to such an extent that one Vietnamese lawmaker is currently taking action against the Korean government. If he continues to build support for his actions, they could ultimately threaten the expanding ties between Korea and Vietnam.

The two countries came together last week in Hanoi, where they agreed to upgrade their relationship to that of a strategic cooperative partnership.

In an interview conducted last Friday via Skype, Nguyen Dinh Xuan, a Vietnamese National Assembly member, said he recently sent a letter to Korea’s Environment Ministry, urging the Korean government to find a solution to the problem. That fact was later confirmed by the Korean ministry.

“A Vietnamese politician named Nyuyen Dinh Xuan said in a letter that Korean businessmen and tourists are involved in illegal bear bile sales in Vietnam,” said Kim Won-tae, a senior deputy director of the ministry. “He requested that we instruct the Korean public to refrain from engaging in these illegal acts when they travel to Vietnam,” Kim said.

In talking about the bear farms, Xuan said moon bears, an endangered species, are raised in cages at the farms, many of which are operated by Koreans who extract and then sell the bear bile to tourists. Keeping bears in captivity for the purpose of extracting bile is illegal in Vietnam.

Even worse, Xuan said, is that the farms sell the bear bile to Korean tourists, who take the product back to Korea, unwittingly violating the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or Cites. The international convention, observed both by Korea and Vietnam, forbids the cross-border trade of endangered wild animals, including bears. Xuan was speaking in his native Vietnamese through an interpreter who translated his words into English.

According to the Vietnamese media and civic groups, around 10 bear farms in Ha Long City, Quang Ninh Province, a famous tourist destination known among Koreans as “Ha Long Bay,” are keeping hundreds of bears in cages and harvesting and selling the bile. Video footage of these activities filmed by undercover Vietnamese police and civic groups was televised nationwide in Vietnam earlier this year.

“There was a recent and well-publicized investigation by the police in Vietnam that resulted in the discovery of the illegal tour activity,” Xuan said. “We want to emphasize that we feel regret for this, and we hope that we might work with others in the future to stop such violations from occurring.”

Xuan said he is not the only politician in Vietnam taking action on the issue. According to Xuan, all 33 members of the Committee of Science, Technology and Environment of the National Assembly in Vietnam, to which Xuan also belongs, oppose the farming and export of bear bile and are working to put it to an end.

A graphic glimpse of the bile harvesting process can be seen in a video posted on YouTube. In the video, which was filmed by an undercover reporter and broadcast by a Vietnamese television station, a moon bear taken out of a cage lies unconscious as its bile is extracted. The video also shows several tourists observing the entire process.

On the wall of the farm, the Korean word jeopgeungeumji, meaning no trespassing, can be seen, underlining the complicity of the Koreans who go there. A close-up shot of the business cards of the Korean representatives of the farm is also shown in the video.

This is not a one-time occurrence, Xuan says. The environmental group Education for Nature-Vietnam, which Xuan said made him aware of the issue, claimed that it had conducted an undercover survey last year. Through the survey, the group said it discovered that there were more than 100 tourist buses transporting around 1,500 Korean tourists to bear farms in the span of just 10 days in April and August.

The director of a local travel agency specializing in tours to Vietnam backed the claim, saying it is a longstanding practice among local travel agencies.

The director, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he said his firm had been involved in sales of bear bile to Korean tourists in the past, said many Korean travel agencies offer package tours to Vietnam that include visits to bear bile farms in Ha Long.

“It is a lucrative business for travel agencies because a significant portion of the profits from the sales of bear bile to tourists return to us in the form of commissions,” the travel agency director said.

He said Korean tourists to Vietnam are taken to buy the bear bile.

One Korean left some information about the price on her blog ( She said she had traveled to Vietnam with her husband in September 2007, and was taken by a guide to a bear farm in Ha Long. The farm extracted the bile from a living bear in front of her and the group of assembled tourists and then tried to sell them the bile, she said.

“The price of the bear bile was 500,000 won [$424.70] in the beginning, but nobody was willing to buy it,” she wrote on the blog. “When the price went down and a free bottle of bile was promised, some finally began to buy it,” she said.

In Korea, a single bottle of bear bile can cost millions of won.

The travel agency director said he stopped taking the tourists to the bear farms after he learned that the bile sold there could be harmful to humans.

The farmers mix the bile with chemicals, which reduces its potency, he said, adding, “There is a reason why it is cheap.”

Critics say that in addition to the greed of those who sell the bile, it is the buyers’ ignorance of the illegality of the practice that serves to perpetuate the problem.

Unlike in Vietnam, bear farming and the sale of bear bile is legal in Korea. In the 1980s, the Korean government made it legal to breed bears. It was a way to assist struggling local farmers as well as boost the population of moon bears, an endangered species. Some bears are raised for sightseeing activities, but most are destined to be killed for their organs, bile and meat.

The slaughter of bears is also legal here, as long as the bears are 10 years old or older. According to Kim Mi-young, an activist at Green Korea, a local environmental group, citing Environment Ministry data, there were 1,374 bears raised at 74 farms across the country last year.

Conservationists say ignorance of the illegality of the practice causes many Korean tourists to buy bear bile illegally in Vietnam, although they have no intention of breaking the law.

“It is illegal to buy [bear bile] outside the country, and legal to buy it in Korea; people are just not educated,” said Kelly Frances McKenna, a volunteer activist campaigning against the bear bile trade and the author of the educational Web site, Bear Necessity Korea (

McKenna said the legality of bear farming in Korea is putting increasing pressure on the government for the inhumane killing of bears. Sometimes bears younger than 10 years old are killed, she said.

The government, meanwhile, is grappling to find a solution as struggling farmers appeal for compensation and an exit strategy, she said.

That, McKenna said, explains why the Korean government has been slow to take action on the bear bile issue in Vietnam. “It is an additional burden for them,” she said.

Douglas Hendrie, an American activist with ENV, said the organization had sought to cooperate on the issue with the Korean Embassy in Vietnam and sent a message to that effect last year. But there have been no significant follow-up measures as yet, he said. Korea’s Foreign Ministry did not return calls seeking confirmation of Hendrie’s statement.

Meanwhile, the Korean government has begun to take action, however slowly. The Korean Customs Service said it plans to launch a public awareness campaign next month at Incheon International Airport in cooperation with Green Korea.

“Based on the information that Green Korea has provided, we are aware that the sale of bear bile by Koreans in Vietnam is becoming a problem in that country,” said Park Heon, deputy director of the Clearance Planning Division at the Korea Customs Service. “Not many Koreans know that it is illegal to buy and transport bear bile,” he said. “So we will launch a campaign in mid-November to let the Korean public know about the illegality of the practice.”

Critics say it is a welcome move, but that it may not go far enough to resolve the problem.

“We want Korea to ban bear bile farming, that’s the only solution,” said McKenna.

Hendrie said the Vietnamese government is raising its voice on the issue. Recently, the Vietnamese media reported that the Environmental Police in Vietnam had raided one bear bile farm in Ha Long. The report stated that some Koreans were caught for their alleged involvement in the sale or purchase of bear bile; they had their passports temporarily confiscated, copied and filed by the police before they were sent back to Korea.

“Many of us in the conservation community were pleased to see the raid by the Environmental Police. It was an important first step in closing down illegal bear bile tourism operations, and ensuring compliance with the law,” Hendrie said.

Xuan believes that more actions could be taken. But he was apprehensive that the issue could drive a wedge between the two countries’ efforts to improve their recently renewed relations. Instead, he hopes to see the two resolve the issue together, which he thinks could work to strengthen their bilateral relationship.

“We have a good relationship with Korea,” Xuan said. “This involves a small group [i.e., the tour operators], and we welcome a joint effort between our two countries to end this illegal activity.

“I believe that this issue can be resolved easily and quickly via the Korean Embassy, with our environmental ministries working together and communicating effectively.”

By Moon Gwang-lip []

Korea: In 2009, according to the Korean Environment Ministry, there were 1,374 bears raised at 74 farms across South Korea. In Korea it is legal to raise bears for bile and bears older than 10 years old can be harvested for their paws and organs. By 2012, it is estimated the number of bears in Korean farms will have risen to about 1,600.... Hwever it has not- simply because the bears have been consumed as food in Korea. The estimated numbers for fam bears is around 1000 in Korea. Bears subjected to such unregulated treatment are often malnourished and in poor health, living to an average age of five years, (though healthy bears can live until age 35 in captivity and 25-30 years in the wild). If the bears live past age five, they are most often killed around age 10, since by then their productivity usually drops off. The fates of wild and captive bear populations are coupled. "As captive bears become less productive, they are replaced and there have been numerous accounts of farms using wild bears to replenish their aging stock," explains the TRAFFIC report.

March 2013

Fate of 1,000 bears in limbo

The Korean government should not negotiate with the bear farmers on the compensation if they really want to end this cruel practice in the country. The government should pay the fair price otherwise the negotiation will never end.

Fate of 1,000 bears in limbo

By Kim Se-jeong, Nam Hyun-woo

A bill calling for steps to protect nearly 1,000 Asiatic black bears caged on farms across the nation has been submitted to the National Assembly for approval, but the future of the animals remains uncertain.

Rep. Chang Ha-na of the main opposition Democratic United Party proposed the bill on March 6, calling for the Environment Ministry to purchase bears farmed throughout the country, place them under professional care and put an end to the use of bear products for human consumption.

According to government tallies, 53 farms were raising 998 bears across the nation as of 2012. The animals are held captive in small cages and “milked” for bile and sometimes slaughtered for body parts.

The government has allowed bear farmers to harvest gall bladders from bears older than 10 years. Gall bladder is a key ingredient in traditional Oriental medicines.

“Some bear farmers sell gall bladders and other body parts illegally as they cannot generate revenue until their bears get 10 years old,” Chang said. “To protect these bears, the government needs to purchase the bears and take other steps. That’s the purpose of the bill.”

Animal rights groups are calling for the government to take steps to protect the animals and are pinning their hopes on Chang’s bill.

Yoon Sang-hoon, an activist affiliated with Green Korea United, a non-governmental organization based in Seoul, said, “I believe the bill could offer the most comprehensive possible solution to the problem. The government must take the responsibility for the predicament facing the farmers and take actions to solve the problem.”

However, the Environment Ministry opposes the government buying the bears, citing a lack of funds to do so.

Speaking with The Korea Times, an official from the ministry said, “Not only can we not afford to buy them, we are not sure whether that is a sound solution. The ministry is conducting a thorough study on what to do with those bears this year. Any decision will follow the results of the study.”

Bear farming in Korea dates back to 1981 when the government allowed farmers to import bears.

Most bear farmers want to sell off their bears as the species is now classified as an endangered, meaning international trade is banned.

The problem seems to stem from inconsistency in policy planning.

In 1981, when bear imports were first allowed, then encouraged by the government, which viewed bear farming as a new business model for rural residents. Farmers imported infant bears and exported adults.

In 1985, the government banned both imports and exports in response to rising calls for the protection of endangered bears, an abrupt decision for farmers, and in 1993 signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna & Flora (CITES).

To help bear farmers, the government allowed the harvest of bile, which continues. Produced by the liver and stored in the gall bladder, the bile is in demand here as a stamina supplement.

The bile used to fetch high prices but demand is in sharp decline. The drop in revenue from bear farming resulted in culls, illegal trading of body parts and other types of animal abuse, according to animal rights groups.

Korea and China are the only countries where such bile harvests are legally practiced, which has drawn mounting criticisms.

At a conference held on Jeju in September of last year, the International Union for Conservation of Nature issued a recommendation for the South Korean government to make “efforts toward ending bear farming.”

한국판: 1000여 마리 '웅담사육곰’의 운명, 애물단지 신세

국내 전역에서 사육되고 있는 1,000여 마리의 반달가슴곰을 보호 하기 위한 법안이 국회에 상정되었지만, 곰들의 미래는 아직 까지 불투명한 것으로 알려졌다.

민주통합당 장하나 의원은 지난 3월 6일 환경부가 국내에 사육되고 있는 약 1,000마리의 반달가슴곰을 구입하여 전문적인 보호를 받고 약용으로 사용되는 것을 중지시키는 내용을 골자로 한 법안을 국회에 제출하였다.

정부 통계에 따르면 2012년 현재, 전국 53개의 농장이 998마리의 반달가슴곰을 기르고 있으며 이 곰들은 좁은 우리 안에서 웅담 채취 등의 목적을 위해 사육되고 있는 것으로 밝혀졌다.

정부는 현재 10살 이상의 곰들에 한해 웅담 채취를 허용하고 있다.

장 하나 의원 측에 따르면 “곰들이 10살이 되기 까지 수입을 창출하기가 어려워 일부 농장주 들이 웅담뿐만 아니라 다른 부위들 역시 불법적으로 판매하고 있는 것'으로 알려졌다. 장 의원 측은 이번 법안의 목적이 “위기에 처한 곰들을 보호하기 위해서는 정부가 이 곰들을 구입하여 조치를 취하는 것”이라고 언급했다.

동물 보호 단체 역시 정부가 조치를 취할 것을 요구 하고 있으며 이번 법안에 희망을 걸고 있는 것으로 보인다.

윤상훈 녹색연합 정책팀장은 “이번 법안이 사안에 대한 가장 총체적인 해결책이 될 수 있을 것으로 보고 있다”며 “정부가 곰 사육 농가가 직면하고 있는 어려움들에 대한 책임을 져야 하며 문제에 대한 해결에 나서야 한다”고 말했다.

그러나 환경부 측에서는 예산 때문에 법안을 받아들이기 힘들다는 입장이다.

본 지와의 인터뷰에서 환경부 측 관계자는 “그 곰들을 구입할 재정적 여력이 없을 뿐만 아니라 이것이 최선인지에 대해서는 의구심이 생긴다” 며 “환경부에서 현재 이 곰들을 어떻게 할 것인지에 대한 연구를 철저히 진행하고 있으며 이 연구에 따라 결정이 내려질 것” 이라고 언급했다.

대부분의 농가에서는 현재 멸종 위기종으로 지정되어 국제 거래가 금지된 곰들을 판매하려는 입장인 것으로 알려졌다.

1981 년, 정부가 사육농가들로 하여금 곰 수입을 허가한 것에서부터 국내 곰 사육이 시작된다. 그 당시 정부는 곰 사육을 유망한 농촌 사업 모델로 보고 곰 사육을 적극 장려했고 농가에서는 어린 곰을 수입하여 재수출했다. 하지만 1985년, 국제 사회의 비난 여론이 거세지자 정부는 곰 수출입을 금지시켰고 1993년에는 ‘멸종위기에 처한 야생동식물종의 국제거래에 관한 협약’에 가입하면서 농가의 재수출 길이 완전히 막히게 되었다.

이러한 농가들을 돕기 위해 정부는 10살 이상 된 사육곰에서 웅담을 채취할 수 있도록 용도 변경을 허용했지만 웅담 수요가 크게 떨어졌다. 동물 협회 측에 따르면, 몇몇 농가들이 수입 하락을 견디다 못해 불법으로 곰 고기 판매 등에 손을 대기 시작한 것으로 알려졌다.

현재 우리나라와 중국 만이 웅담 채취를 법적으로 허락하고 있지만, 이 역시 국제 사회의 비난의 대상이 되고 있다.

지난해 9월 제주도에서 열린 세계자연보전총회는 한국 정부가 곰 사육 허용을 중지할 것”을 권고한 바 있다.

February 2013

Asian bear farming: breaking the cycle of exploitation (warning: graphic images)

In Korea, CITES are under Ministry of environment who doesn't have enough power to regulate bear farming industries in the country. We believe there are only 2 designated officers who work to regulate all farmed bears in Seoul Hangang and Kumgang area- they change their term in every few years or even less to avoid corruption. Under this circumstances, we cannot expect CITES can do their best work. Moreover, there are not any International animal organizations in the country monitoring these systems. We would suggest that they locate their office in Korea with clear signage. There need to be an ultimate unification of animal welfare organizations to save animals. Without this, animals are doomed. I am disappointed with terms of housed bears. It is not 'housed'- they are jailed for their lives.

By: Jenny R. Isaacs January 31, 2013

In the forests of Asia, bears are being captured. These captives will be sent to bear farms, most unregulated and illegal, where they will be kept alive in a small cage, locked away for life. Their bodies will be used as renewable natural resources, from which profit will be made through the extraction of internal organs and fluids. By surgically inserting a permanent catheter into the bears' gall bladders, "farmers" extract several ounces of their bile. In a cycle of exploitation across east Asia, traditional medicine shops receive these daily shipments of bear bile products, while consumers support the industry through the purchase of these products, sustaining a supply-and-demand chain that puts more and more bears in cages as wild populations dwindle.

"While bear conservation is a global concern, the hotspot is definitely Asia where poaching, trade, and demand are greatest," says Chris Shepherd, TRAFFIC Deputy Regional Director in South-East Asia, who is working to break the bile product supply-and-demand cycle which is built on the illegal capture and exploitation of already endangered bears. He and his team are dedicated to investigating and interrupting the many links of the bear bile commodity chain as it snakes across Asia; from the many still-wild places where bears are captured, to the bear-processing farms where products are harvested, to the shelves of traditional medicine shops, and into their final destination: the bodies of human consumers.

Shepherd explained to that TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network, plays an essential role in stopping wildlife crime as it "investigates the nuts and bolts behind the trade, and works to see action is taken to tackle the illegal trade, and ultimately to reduce demand for threatened/illegal species."

As the leading author of a recent TRAFFIC report, "Pills, Powders, Vials and Flakes: the bear bile trade in Asia," Shepherd hopes to educate the world to what he calls the "horrendous" practice and industry of bear farming and bile extraction.

*Farming bears* Three species of bears are harvested for their bile: The Asiatic black bear (*Ursus thibetanus*), otherwise known as the moon bear; the sun bear (*Helarctos malayanus*); and the brown bear (*Ursus arctos*). Both the Asiatic black and bear and the sun bear are listed as Vulnerable on IUCN Red List.

"Few know much about these species and even fewer are doing anything to solve the conservation problems both species face. Valiant efforts by a number of committed individuals and organizations to address the welfare issues in the horrendous bear bile farming are underway, but few conservation organizations have taken on bears as species in need of attention," Shepherd says.

The TRAFFIC report warns that there could be fewer than 25,000 Asiatic black bears left in the wild, and sun bear populations have declined by more than 30% over the past 30 years, due to massive deforestation and uncontrolled poaching. The brown bear, listed as Least Concern, is also farmed for its bile, although little is known about the status of this species in the region.

Shepherd's report details what is agreed about bile—that it is a "liquid substance produced by the liver and aids in the digestion of lipids in the small intestine in many vertebrate species including humans"—and explains its value within Eastern traditional medicine. Bear bile has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for 2000 years and is currently found in various forms for sale including whole gall bladders, raw bile, pills, powder, flakes and ointment. It is purchased and consumed to treat hemorrhoids, sore throats, sores, bruising, muscle ailments, sprains, epilepsy, and to 'clear' the liver. But unlike rhino horn, which scientists say is the medicinal equivalent of eating one's fingernails, studies have shown that bear bile does indeed have some medicinal value.

"However, research has also found more than 50 legal herbal alternatives, plus there are loads of synthetic alternatives. The key is to educate people and encourage them to use legal alternatives, alternatives that do not involve illegal trade in threatened species," Shepherd says. In order to extract the bile, bears are either captured from the wild or born into what are referred to as "bear farms," which utilize human-invented bile extraction techniques. The TRAFFIC report describes several common methods of bile extraction from captive bears: including using an ultrasound to locate and puncture the gall bladder, inserting a permanent incision in the abdomen and gall bladder or a metal catheter that uses a permanently implanted metal tube to access bile, a "full-jacket" method that also employs a permanent catheter tube to extract the bile which is then collected in a plastic bag set in a metal box worn by the bear, and finally simply removing the gall bladder whole.

The TRAFFIC report states that whatever method is employed, "Farmed bears are often kept as captive individuals, rather than in groups, with little or no space provided for animals to socialize or mate in other areas."

Bears subjected to such unregulated treatment are often malnourished and in poor health, living to an average age of five years, (though healthy bears can live until age 35 in captivity and 25-30 years in the wild). If the bears live past age five, they are most often killed around age 10, since by then their productivity usually drops off.

The fates of wild and captive bear populations are coupled.

"As captive bears become less productive, they are replaced and there have been numerous accounts of farms using wild bears to replenish their aging stock," explains the TRAFFIC report.

Shepherd, citing research that proves the demand for bear bile puts pressure on wild bear collection, rejects the notion that farm bears (who are born and die in the facilities) somehow protect wild bears from collection.

"Bear farming is a misleading term," he says. "The word 'farming' implies to many that the bears are captive-bred, and that these facilities might take the pressure off wild populations. Unfortunately, in Southeast Asia, this just is not true. The 'farms' are better termed 'bear bile extraction facilities.' None of the farms visited by TRAFFIC have any breeding facilities and employees of these farms themselves have admitted all their bears are sourced directly from the wild."

For example, in Vietnam, forests are becoming devoid of bears due to illegal hunting. Research has shown that bears are regularly sourced from countries such as Cambodia and Lao PDR, where cubs destined for bear farms in Vietnam can be sold for around $100. As an example, Shepherd's TRAFFIC report details a firsthand account in 2006, where a bear farmer in Vietnam told Animals Asia that bear farms paid rural villagers to trap 12 wild bear cubs per year in order to supplement farm stocks.

Though used as a resource to draw from, in their servitude bears work as a large force of enlisted laborers within a market system. Shepherd says that in China today, an estimated "97 farms housing 7,000 to 10,000 bears remain in operation" and in Asia more broadly, a minimum of 12,000 bears are currently estimated to be housed in both illegal and legal bear farms.

"The case of bears, and the undeniably brutal economy that surrounds them, clearly compels us to pause and think about the suffering and labor of things that are not people," the political ecologist Paul Robbins recently wrote.

*Bear farming pays: the economic geography of bile* Since bears can be kept alive and "farmed" over many years, bear bile serves as a renewable natural resource, procuring steady and guaranteed streams of profit as long as there is demand and lax enforcement of existing laws. Because high demand makes business lucrative, bear bile trading takes place on a massive scale for massive profits.

There is good money to be made from bears. Bile product prices range dramatically depending on the country or territory surveyed, but the TRAFFIC report estimates that prices for whole gall bladders were as low as $51.11 (Myanmar) and as high as $2,000 (Hong Kong SAR). For gall bladder by the gram, the least expensive was $0.11 per gram (Thailand) and the highest was $109.70 per gram (Japan). Pill prices ranged from as low as $0.38 per pill (Malaysia) to $3.83 per pill (Thailand).

"The scale of the bear bile trade in Asia is large, with several countries playing dual roles as producers and consumers," writes Shepherd in the report.

Seeking to examine the movement of bear bile and capital across the Asian landscape, Shepherd and his team conducted surveys in traditional medicine outlets and bear farms located in the thirteen countries and territories where bear bile is sold including Cambodia, mainland China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), Japan, Republic of Korea, Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR), Macao SAR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

The report found that "live bears and their parts and derivatives are openly sold in [traditional medicine] outlets, [traditional medicine] shops, privately through dealers, from bear farms and through a variety of other sources… Bear parts and derivatives are heavily traded. These include the paws, skin, claws, canine teeth, skulls and most prized of all: the gall bladder and bile.

" Shepherd's team also traced bear bile products found in traditional medicine shops back to their place of origin. He described how easy it was to "In the vast majority of places surveyed, collecting data on the illegal trade was simple, indicating a lack of fear of prosecution on the part of the dealers. In virtually all cases, retailers were fully aware that the trade in bear parts was illegal."

Findings from the TRAFFIC investigative report reveal an extraordinary movement of bile products across the landscape and over national borders, illustrating a sprawling network of distribution along the commodity chain. For example, in just a 12 day period, researchers in Myanmar found bear parts representing a minimum of 215 bears being openly traded in border markets near China and Thailand. The authors of the report summarize that "all of the countries/territories surveyed were observed to have a significant amount (22% to 100%) of bear bile products originating in other countries/territories for sale. Mainland China was the most commonly reported place of origin...In Myanmar, cross-border-sourced gall bladders were reported to be entirely from Lao PDR. In Hong Kong SAR, 100% of pills (where origin could be determined) were reported to have originated in Japan. In the Republic of Korea, 60% of bear bile products were reported to have been produced from wild bear populations in Russia; in Russia hunting and trade of brown bears is legal."

More troublesome, with such a vast and thriving network of suppliers, distributors, and consumers, the bear bile industry now runs at a surplus, which, according to market economics, must therefore invent new outlets for its product. Shepherd described a bear bile traditional medicine industry that has become self-perpetuating, wherein "the surplus of farm-produced bile has led to the use of bear bile in more products, thereby potentially generating more consumers and increasing demand."

*The limits of the law* In recent years, more attention has been paid to the problem of bear farming and trade in bile products. Mobilized to act, politicians and wildlife management agencies have taken some steps to break the commodity chain. Calling it a "monumental" and a "tremendous step forward in the overall bear conservation effort," Shepherd explained to the significance of the September 2012 motion to phase out bear bile extraction facilities stocked with wild-caught bears, which was overwhelmingly passed at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, held in Jeju, South Korea.

"This is the first IUCN resolution pertaining to bears ever, and had overwhelming support from IUCN Government and NGO members," he says. "The resolution calls for not only the closure of illegal farms, but also the promotion of legal herbal and synthetic substitutes…While we still have a ways to go, the stamp of the IUCN, an organization focused solely on issues of conservation concern is one of the most encouraging developments to date in the struggle to ensure bears are treated as priorities for conservation efforts."

While there are increasing international efforts to minimize wildlife crime, such as prohibitions of the sale and cross-border trade of bear bile, Shepherd and his team say these laws and conventions just aren't working. "Times are changing and many traditional medicine practitioners now promote legal herbal and synthetic alternatives to medicines containing bear bile. Unfortunately, others are working hard to promote the use of bear bile, despite laws being in place to protect both species [of Asiatic bear]," he explains.

The use of bear bile is legal within some Asian countries, but the cross-border trade of bear bile products is prohibited by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and yet still occurs throughout the region. "Clearly, CITES Parties are failing to curtail illegal bear bile trade and, ultimately, to protect bears from exploitation," reads the TRAFFIC report. "Unbridled illegal trade in bears and bear parts continues to undermine what could be, and should be, the world's most powerful tool to regulate cross-border wildlife trade. As the Convention is legally binding, it must implement and enforce CITES regulations. However many countries have yet to follow through on this obligation." But the reality on the ground, according to Shepherd, means that there are few real deterrents to the booming trade.

"To date, success stories in Southeast Asia are few and far between, and the trade remains widespread. With regards to the bear trade, CITES is not yet being used as an effective tool to reduce demand. National laws are not being used to their maximum potential and the result is that traders continue selling these products with little fear of the law…Enforcement levels, and successful convictions of those involved in the trade, from the poacher, through the dealers, to the consumers, needs to be greatly increased if laws are to benefit bear conservation and if there is to be any meaningful deterrent."

To solve these problems, Chris Shepherd as both TRAFFIC and as the IUCN SSC Bear Specialist Group co-chair on Trade, is currently focusing much of his work in Southeast Asia on Lao, Myanmar, Malaysia and Vietnam to investigate the trade and work with authorities to take action. But the obstacles are many.

"Corruption, collusion and sheer complacency are really the obstacles that stand in the way of effective enforcement," Shepherd explains. "Resources and increased capacity would be increased and enhanced if tackling the issue became a true priority. In most places, sufficient laws and capacity already exist. If the will was there, the trade would be largely shut down overnight."

*The role of consumers in ending wildlife crime*

Individuals like Chris Shepherd and organizations like TRAFFIC are on the front lines trying to protect species from the negative human impacts. While there are some hopeful signs of change, the outlook for many species of endangered wildlife, hunted and exploited for profit, is getting worse by the year. "One only has to start following wildlife crime related news stories to see that currently the war is being lost. More rhinos killed this year than ever. Ivory trade levels higher than they have been in decades. Tiger populations down from 100,000 less than a century ago to an all time low of about 3,200 animals in the wild. And these are the high profile species. Dig a little deeper and you will find that a vast array of lesser known species are in the same sad situation. And what's worse, efforts to address the threats these poorly-known species are facing are far less than those for the higher profile animals," Shepherd told In the end, however, consumer demand drives wildlife crime, such as the trafficking of bear bile and other illegal products (like elephant ivory, rhino horn, etc).

"Continued and increasing demand for bear parts and derivatives is at the core of the problem," Shepherd says. "As is the case with many threatened species, traditional use is a driver. In the case of Southeast Asia's bears, gall bladders and bile are in high demand for medicinal purposes, and paws and meat for consumption (often believed to have beneficial effects on one's health). Reducing demand for bears, their parts and derivatives, is absolutely essential." The TRAFFIC report describes the spiraling, reinforcing relationship between bear bile supply and demand.

"Widespread availability means it is more likely practitioners will prescribe bile. Widespread and easy access to bear bile products has led to consumers using the products not just for traditional medicinal reasons, but increasingly as non-traditional health tonics, in the ingredients of beauty products etc." In addition to the problem of farmed bile oversupply, which necessitates a wider market with more consumers, an increase in affluence across East Asia is also driving demand.

"As people have more disposable income, a trend seen in China and other nations with growing economies, access to wildlife products increases, for luxury, food and traditional medicines," Shepherd told

But the good news for wildlife is that the cycle of exploitation starts and ends with us, as consumers and concerned citizens. If there are no customers to buy products such as ivory and bear bile, then those who profit from wildlife crime will be forced to conclude their business is unprofitable. Instead of consumers being part of the problem by sustaining market demand, engaged communities can be part of the solution.

Positive change for wildlife will build upon on greater appreciation and fostering of a positive connection between people and nature

Shepherd told "Very broadly speaking, people need to realize that bears, and all of the other species being over-exploited, are part of a complex system that keeps us all alive. As species are removed from this system, it weakens and begins to break down, which ultimately will greatly impact our own wellbeing...This is why I believe conservation organizations and others need to step up their game."


An Asian black bear just killed in a market in northern Myanmar for its gallbladder.
Photo: Chris R. Shepherd/TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.

Janurary 2013

(The Korea Times) Native Asiatic black bear may exist here

Dangun Shinwha may be real. However why are we milking their bladders. Let's record the whole sad story.

Now we have this important evidence- let's please stop.

(The Korea Times) Native Asiatic black bear may exist here

An Asiatic black bear cub born on Mt. Jiri of South Gyeongsang Province last winter likely has a mother from Russia and a native Korean father, according to the Korea National Park Service (KNPS), Wednesday.

Officials from the agency suspect native wild Asiatic black bears still exist on the mountain, while the agency has brought in bears from Russia and other nations and released them in an effort to increase the numbers of the endangered species.

The KNPS said that through blood, hair and excrement samples, they examined the DNA of 47 bears which were released by the agency or born here since 2004 when the species restoration project started. They found the parental line of one of the cubs was actually native to the area.

“The cub was born in January last year to a mother bear from Russia that was released here in 2005. Another cub, which was born to the mother at the same time, had a parental line of another Russian male,” an official said.

They suspect the mother mated both with a Russian and a native Korean bear in the summer of 2011 and became pregnant with two cubs from the different males. There have been similar cases in other countries, where a female bear mates with more than one male and has two or more offspring at a time with different fathers.

“We see a high chance of the native breed’s existence. The area where the mother bear and the cub usually stay is where we suspect the native bears inhabit,” the official said.

Some animal farms brought Asiatic black bears from Japan or Taiwan before 1985, when Korea banned imports of the species, and their offspring have lived here, but the cub’s DNA was also different from theirs, he added.

In early 2000 before the species restoration project began, some Asiatic black bears were shown in surveillance camera footage on Mt. Jiri. There were also claw prints from the bears climbing trees.

However, the agency concluded at that time that a maximum of five native bears were living on the mountain, presuming they would be extinct within 20-30 years. It started the project to combat this.

By Kim Rahn


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