Ac­tion on Myan­mar bears

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - MYAT MOE AUNG my­at­moeaung@mm­

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.”

Photo: San Lwin (WCS Myan­mar)

Sun bears play in an an­i­mal sanc­tu­ary in Myan­mar.

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