Illegal internatinal trade in bear bile used in traditional medicine and folk remedies is still rampant in Asia, according to the international wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.
In an online article posted Wednesday, the network said their latest survey of 13 countries and territories found that despite the prohibition of international trade in bear bile under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the product is still traded across borders.
For example, in Myanmar, internationally sourced gall bladders are brought from Laos, while in Hong Kong, the well known source is Japan, it said.
Bear bile products of purportedly Vietnamese origin were only seen in Malaysia, according to the survey report called "Pills, Powders, Vials & Flakes: The bear bile trade in Asia".
Several of the surveyed countries and territories were either producers or consumers of bear bile products, and in some cases they acted as both, the report said.
It noted that mainland China was the most commonly reported source of the product across the region.
The survey's findings show that import and export regulations are commonly flouted, demonstrating a failure to implement CITES.
"Unbridled illegal trade in bear parts and products continues to undermine CITES which should be the world's most powerful tool to regulate cross-border wildlife trade," said Kaitlyn-Elizabeth Foley, lead author of the report and Senior Programme Officer of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.
The survey found bear bile products on sale in traditional medicine shops in all of the surveyed countries and territories, except for Macao.
Mainland China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Vietnam accounted for over half of all the outlets, with the mosst common products being gall bladders and pills.
For example, 65 percent of the outlets surveyed in Vietnam sold bear bile products.
"The demand for bile is one of the greatest drivers behind this trade and must be reduced if bear conservation efforts are to succeed," said Foley.