Action on Myanmar bears
Bears are being hunted with impunity in eastern Shan State and conservationists are calling for an end to the practice.
BEARS are being hunted with impunity for their gall bladder and bile in eastern Shan State, where the rule of law remains weak, conservationists said, calling for immediate protection of the species.
WWF Myanmar said Malay bears and Himalayan bears are being caught in forests and kept in small cages on livestock farms where their bile is harvested for traditional medicine.
“Bears are being kept inside small cages and their bile is harvested every day by piercing through their rib cages,” said U Tin Htun Aung, program officer at the Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Association (BANCA).
“They are forced to produce bile for many years. If the bear is killed, bile can only be extracted once so people resort to this cruel method to harvest bile for years,” he added.
The Sun bear, which can be found in Myanmar, requires full protection by law. The Himalayan bear, the other type of bear in the country, is included on the list of protected species, according to BANCA.
As Himalayan bears are rather large with big gall bladders, they are more targeted, the organisations added.
Conservationists lamented that although these bears are killed and poached, no survey was conducted to estimate the bear population, making protection work difficult. This lack of information makes it difficult to analyse the pace at which bear population is declining, if it is indeed declining.
Although there are no scientific proofs about the medicinal value of bears’ bile, its harvesting persists, becoming a major threat to the Myanmar bears. Illegal bear bile production persists in Shan State, despite unrelenting actions by the Regional Forestry Department, said U Tin Htun Aung.
“There are about three factories in eastern Shan State between Mongla and Panghsang. They should be closed. It is important not to let bears go extinct in Myanmar,” he said.
In 2016, the Forest Department arrested several suspects in Lashio for breading bears without permission. They were prosecuted under the Protection of Wildlife, Wild Plants and Conservation of Natural Areas Law. The four rescued bears were transferred to Yadanarpon zoo in Mandalay. Last August, police and wildlife authorities also seized bear parts near the inspection gate at Kengtung in Shan State.
In order to boost the government’s efforts to protect bears, the Forestry Department signed last year a four-year agreement with the Italy based conservation group Instituto Oikus, which conducts environmental and biodiversity protection activities, according to U Win Naing Thaw, Director of the Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division
Forest Department. He added that wider cooperation from the public and other non-government groups to complement the government’s effort.
“The situation will improve only if people can understand the value of wildlife. Then illegal trading can be eliminated,” said U Win Naing Thaw. “We have to completely stop the bear production works.”
Sun bears play in an animal sanctuary in Myanmar.