H O N G K O N G, July 24 -- China pledged today torescue 500 bears held in cages for their bile as a first step inwiping out the age-old practice, Chinese researchers and Westernactivists said.
Bile is extracted for its healing powers and ending thepractice means the rare Asiatic black bears will be freed from alife trapped in tiny cages, Huang Jian Hua of the China WildlifeConservation Association said.
The 500 are among 7,000 captive bears on 247 bear bile farmsin China, Huang said.
Bear bile has been harvested for thousands of years in Asiaand is believed to be useful in treating fever, liver illnessesand sore eyes. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners saythere are herbs that serve the same purposes as bear bile.
Huang said China’s move underscored the urgent need to helpother endangered bears held in Asian countries such as SouthKorea and Vietnam.
Life of Confinement and Pain
Under an agreement between China and Hong Kong-based AnimalsAsia Foundation (AAF), 500 captive bears in China’s centralSichuan province will be rehabilitated and placed in a sanctuaryin Ziyang city over the next five years, Huang said.
“As one can expect, the living conditions in these farmsare often disturbing. Therefore there is a pressing need for usto rescue the bears from these farms,” Huang told reporters.
The program will be extended to other parts of China overthe next 10 years.
The practice came to light in 1993 after AAF founder JillRobinson found bears incarcerated in tiny cages in bear bilefarms in China’s Sichuan province. The bears had been theresince they were cubs.
Many were lying stomach down in cages barely high enough forthem to raise their heads and spent their waking hours bitingthe iron grills or banging their heads against them.
Surgically implanted with catheters, the bears are kept inthe prone position so bile can be extracted twice a day, or 50millilitres each time.
Widespread Since 1980s