Polar bear plan for gall bladder market

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 July, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 July, 1996, 12:00am

Polar bear gall bladders will be promoted (inaccurate use of word -see correction) as an alternative to the illegal trade in parts ofillegal trade in parts of Asiatic black bears by the conservation agency, Traffic. Asiatic black bear gall bladders are key ingredients in traditional Chinese medicine, but the species is listed in appendix one of the Convention on International trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES), which prohibits trade.

Polar bears, listed in appendix two which permits regulated trade, are a traditional prey of North American Eskimos, the Inuit tribe, which inhabits Alaska.

The Inuit have begun cashing in on the gall bladder market, which they say is in line with their traditional belief in using the whole animal.

Agriculture and Fisheries Department conservation officer Dr So Ping-man said at least one shipment of polar bear gall bladders had been imported into Hong Kong legally in the past two years.

Now Traffic East Asia, the trade monitoring arm of the World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong, plans to promote the legal polar bear gall bladder trade in the first issue of a newsletter for the Chinese medicine community in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and South Korea.

The Chinese language newsletter for traders and practitioners is intended to improve dialogue and understanding between conservationists and the Chinese medicine community.

But International Fund for Animal Welfare spokesman Jill Robinson said with only 20,000 polar bears left, there was no guarantee 'sustainable use' would be effective.