August 17, 2005
Vietnam to Bug Bears to Stop Wildlife Smuggling
HANOI -- Vietnam plans to plant microchips in an estimated 4,000 captive bears to try to stop wildlife traders catching more of the animals in the wild and selling them to bile farms, state media reported on Wednesday.
The Agriculture Ministry said the chips would also help prevent the slaughter of the bears for food in the southeast Asian nation, where bear parts such as paws are regarded as a delicacy.
The bear-bugging campaign, which is being carried out with help from the London-based World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), is due to end in December, the Thanh Nien newspaper reported.
Farming bears for their bile is widespread in Vietnam, where people believe it is a potent cure for fevers, liver illnesses and sore eyes.
One millilitre of fresh bear bile, which is either drunk neat or diluted with rice wine, fetches as much as 100,000 dong.
"This could be the beginning of the end of the bear farming industry as the only other countries that still tolerate this form of cruelty are China and Korea," said Leah Garces of the WSPA.
Bear bile farms first appeared in Vietnam in the 1980s and have increased dramatically in recent years, the WSPA said.
Unlike in China, where bile is extracted with a metal catheter, Vietnamese bear farmers use ultrasound scans to locate the gall bladder and a hypodermic needle to extract up to 400 ml of bile at a time.