Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 74 – The Asiatic Black Bear

Asiatic Black Bear, Himalayan Black Bear

“Deliberate cruelty to our defenceless and beautiful little cousins is surely one of the meanest and most detestable vices of which a human being can be guilty”
William Ralph Inge

Adherents of Traditional Asian Medicine believe bile milked from the gall bladder of the Asiatic black bear will bring untold health benefits.  Whereas there is some foundation in this, bear bile does indeed have some medicinal value, there are many more legal alternatives, both natural and synthetic.

These abhorrent practises are no longer necessary.  And, quite frankly, the process of bear farming should never have been allowed Asiatic black bear in crush cage 3to flourish in the first place.

Bears are kept on farms in Asia in small ‘crush cages’ for, in most cases, the duration of their lifetime.  These crush cages measure between two and a half to four and a half feet by six and a half feet (coincidentally, just about the same size as the bear).  They are designed to restrict as much of the bear’s movement as possible, in order to make bile extraction easy.

A permanent hole is drilled into the abdomens and gall bladders of the bears and a crude catheter inserted to extract the bile.  Most are forced to wear ‘metal jackets’, to further restrict mobility and to hold in place a box place containing the catheter and a plastic bag to collect the bile.  These jackets are never removed.  The sheer brutality of this beggars belief.

This is the beginning of a long, drawn-out and painful death.  Before reaching the point of death, bears suffer loss of muscular control from the inability to move their arms and legs, they often chew off their own limbs in an attempt to ease the pain and escape their tormentors and cramped housing.  They develop arthritis and lose their teeth.  The gall bladders and open wounds become infected, adding to the already drawn-out, excruciating pain and physical and emotional suffering.  Many are already injured when they arrive at the farms having been severely harmed by the traps laid to capture them. Little or no medical help is given.

The United States black market works with the Asian Bear Bile Market, to sell gall bladders from American black, brown, grizzly, and polar bear populations. [1] 

Asiatic Black Bear, Himalayan Black Bear 2Asian black bears have shaggy black coats with a pale crescent-shaped mark on the chest.  They are stocky with round heads and large ears. They have a collar of longer hair around the neck.  Females can weigh up to two hundred and seventy-five pounds and males four hundred and forty pounds.  Head to tail, they measure between four and six feet.

Asiatic black bears are nocturnal in most, but not all, regions.  Some spend their days asleep in caves and trees hollows and look for food at night.  In a few areas, there are others known to be active during the day.  In the northern regions, the species hibernates, whereas further south, where it is much warmer, this in not thought to be the case, and they are presumed active all the year round.

They live in family groups, which may contain two litters of different ages at the same time.  Comically, when walking, the family will process, with the largest leading and the smallest bringing up the rear.

They are good tree and rock climbers.  They also have a curious habitat of building open nests of twigs and leaves in nut-bearing trees, to sit on whilst feeding.

Sadly, these bears are also known to be aggressive towards humans and many unprovoked attacks have been reported.  Who knows!  Perhaps word is out in the bear community about the way in which some of the human species behave around bears.

Not much is known about the breeding habits of this species in the wild.  However, it is thought the breeding season takes placeAsiatic black bear cub between June and July.  Cubs are usually born in December or January.  Litters consist of either one or two cubs. These are weaned at six months and will remain with the mother until they are two or three years old.

This is the first time I have truly struggled to write a post about any vulnerable or endangered species. Though most stories are heart-breaking, this one is almost unbearable.  Man’s callousness and cruelty to animals is far from acceptable at any time, but the treatment of these poor bears is possibly the most inhumane I have ever come across.  Prolonged and sustained torture, often lasting decades, without a single drop of compassion or remorse on the part of the captors or financial beneficiaries. And, certainly not from those who keep the demand going by mindlessly purchasing the end products in the name of better health.  There is no possible explanation for any of this abhorrent behaviour.  These people clearly lack the basic criteria required to qualify as decent human beings.  Their actions are morally degenerate.  To continue to do this year after year without any consideration for these poor innocent creatures and the unforgivable pain and suffering they are causing to them, is simply not acceptable.  There are no viable excuses.  These are living, breathing, feeling animals.  Their exploiters are wired to understand suffering, therefore cannot fail to know this is wrong.  The International community needs to give a much louder voice to this atrocious practise.  Please find it in your hearts to sign this petition, or one of the many others available on the web.
Stop Torturing Bears: End Bear Bile Farming In China

Forested hill and mountain areas and tropical forests below alpine levels.
Widespread throughout southern Asia;  including Myanmar and Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the  Russian Federation, north-eastern China, Thailand and the Japanese islands of Honshu and Shikoku. 

What they eat
Vegetation: shoots, forbs and leaves.  Berries, insects and shrub-borne fruits. They will also eat meat, either killed or scavenged.

Habitat loss due to illegal logging, encroachment of human settlements, road networks, and hydro-power stations are all significant threats.  But, the most inhumane threats to the Asiatic black bear are those of bile extraction, trade in gall bladders, paws and skins (Traditional Asian Medicine), and capture and resale for bear-baiting.  Bear baiting was declared illegal in 2001, but it still continues.  In most counties the bear inhabits, bear bile farming is also illegal. However, the bulk of officials turn a blind eye to these atrocities.  In Cambodia, bear-paw soup is relished as a delicacy.
Status: Vulnerable
The Asiatic black bear  (Ursus thibetanus)  is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Vulnerable.  This means high risk of endangerment in the wild.
Chinese officials had first pledged to reduce the number of captive bears to 1,500 from 7,000.  This pledge was not honoured and currently there are thought to be at least twenty thousand bears held captive on almost one hundred domestic bear farms.  This excessively cruel practise needs to be stopped and pressure brought to bear upon the appropriate morally bankrupt authorities to uphold their pledges.  The full force of International law needs to be enacted to its limits, lest this vile treatment of these poor animals continues indefinitely.

Warning:  The articles listed below all contain graphic and upsetting material.  There is, however, a very heart-warming and moving video on the first link – very well worth watching.

Related Articles
Oliver The Broken Bear, Free After 30 Years in a Bear Bile Farm in China 
Asian bear farming: breaking the cycle of exploitation
Folk Remedy Extracted From Captive Bears Stirs Furore in China
Mother Bear Kills Cub and Herself on Chinese Bile Farm
A Day in the Life of a Farmed Bear in China Through a Bear’s Eyes
Bear bile extraction techniques

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 52 – The Cross River Gorilla

Cross river gorilla from the Limbe Wildlife Centre, Limbe, Cameroon.

Photographer: Julie Langford – Limbe Wildlife Centre

In March of this year, a Cross River silver-back gorilla entered a community of Pinyin people in Santa Subdivision, North-west Cameroon.  One villager raised the alarm and panic-driven mayhem followed.  This frightened the gorilla, who tried to flee. But, they managed to corner him.  The Chief of Gendarmerie Brigade based in Pinyin ordered the villagers to kill him.  The terrified, elderly (forty-year old) silver-back was shot over forty-five times, clubbed and stoned to death, and left in a pool of his own blood.

These people, it transpired, did not act out of fear, but were whipped into a cold-blooded frenzy of uncontrollable excitement masquerading as self-defence.

Since this deeply sad and barbaric event, steps have been taken to educate and sensitise the local population about the importance of wildlife, and warnings have been issued about the consequences of future killings such as this.

Like so many other species, the Cross River gorilla depends heavily on conservation laws, and the enforcement of them, to ensure its survival.

Cross River gorillas are highly endangered, with less than three hundred known to be left in existence.  They can be quite difficult to observe due to their sometimes inaccessible locations.  A lot of what is known about them comes from nest analysis, feeding trails and eye-witness reports by local huntsmen.  Though, there have been some sightings, observations have been made and rare footage is available.

The Cross River gorilla is one of the great apes, and a subspecies of the western gorilla. Differing slightly from other gorillas, they have smaller heads, eyes and teeth.  They are equipped with opposable thumbs and are quadrupedal.  Cross River gorillas have also been observed throwing things, possibly in self-defence, and using basic tools in order to access food.

Males can reach a height of six feet and weigh in at over four hundred pounds.  Both male and female have a greyish coat with a reddish-brown patch on top of their heads.  Life span is usually thirty-five to fifty years.

Cross River gorillas are sociable animals and  live in troops led and protected by the alpha male, who has his pick of the females.  Like other gorillas, they reproduce at a slow rate, females giving birth only once every four to five years.  The babies will remain with their mother for a couple of years before claiming their independence.

Submontane tropical and subtropical broadleaf forests.
On the border of Cameroon and Nigeria. There are now eleven known localities.
What they eat
Fruit, tree bark, pith, leaves and stems.   The water content in the food they eat is so high, they rarely need to drink extra water.
Habitat loss due to illegal logging, oil palm plantations  (yet again), subsistence agriculture, cattle grazing and road networks.  Due to their low numbers and highly fragmented distribution,  there could be the risk of inbreeding leading to loss of genetic diversity.   As with most primates, the problem of slaughter for the bushmeat trade and traditional medicine have been very much in evidence.  The Cross River gorilla has very few natural predators.
Status: Critically Endangered
The Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered.  It is also listed in CITES Appendix I,  on Class A of the African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (1969) and Appendix I of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).   Two parks have been established for the protection of the Cross River gorilla; Takamanda National Park in Cameroon and the Cross River National Park in Nigeria.  There are laws protecting the species, but they are rarely enforced.  Only one Cross River gorilla is known to be kept in captivity.  Named Nyango, she lives in the Limbe Wildlife Center in Cameroon.  It is estimated less than three hundred of the species are left in the wild.

“Deliberate cruelty to our defenceless and beautiful little cousins is surely one of the meanest and most detestable vices of which a human being can be guilty”
William Ralph Inge