Save bears from their plight

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 March, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 March, 1993, 12:00am

THERE are eight species of bear in the world - the Giant Panda, Asiatic Black Bear, the Malay Sun-bear, Spectacled Bear, Brown Bear, Sloth Bear, Polar Bear and the American Black Bear.

The survival of many of these bear populations is being threatened, particularly the first species which are now classified as endangered. One reason is that these bears are losing their homes through man's activities such as the clearing of forests for agriculture and residential purposes.

Another reason is that they are being hunted for by the illegal trade in some bear parts mainly used in Oriental folk medicines. Bears are often killed in their sleep inside their winter dens, and poachers will usually leave behind most of the dead animal, including its pelt, taking only their galls and claws away.

In Chinese medicine, bear galls have a ''cold'' property. Some Asians believe it is a cure for everything from indigestion to cirrhosis of the liver. However, studies have indicated that bear gall drugs will have adverse effects such as diarrhea and other gastric upsets.

In Hongkong, bear galls can fetch up to $10,000 each. Some from endangered Asiatic populations are sold in medicine shops throughout Hongkong despite the fact that these animals are protected by law.

If bears are to survive, then immediate action must be taken to conserve them. The loophole in the existing law on the selling of bear products should be closed. Threats facing bears can only be eliminated by alerting the public to the plight of these animals.