The practice of using bear bile and other products for medicinal purposes has pushed the species to the brink of extinction, according to a recent study.
Bear bile has no health benefits
The Education for Nature-Vietnam (ENV) recently released a study, which included a survey of 1,400 people in northern rural areas. Of those surveyed, 30% admitted to using bear bile. Attitudes in urban areas are largely the same.
The bile is widely used to treat skin ailments, aches and sprains even though medical experts have said that it has no health benefits.
The rate of men who admitted to taking bear bile was about 40%, almost twice the number of women surveyed. The study also showed that people over the age of 40 tend to take bile at higher rates.
Alarmingly, the study revealed that most of the estimated 3,000 bears that are being kept in 'farms' nationwide are wild, caught, not only in the forests of Vietnam, but from neighbouring countries as well, such as Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.
Vietnam is home to two rare bear species, including Ursus thibetanus and Helarctos malayanus. There is currently a ban on trade of these animals, however both continue to be threatened with extinction due to illegal poaching and trafficking.
The medical community has warned that, not only will bear bile not cure any illnesses, but it could also pose health problems, such as impaired liver and kidney functions, and in some cases can even lead to death.