More than 30 percent of rural residents recently surveyed by Vietnamese NGO Education for Nature-Vietnam (ENV) have consumed bear bile, mostly to address health problems.
According to ENV, comparing the finding to an earlier study of urban bear bile users, attitudes and behaviors were quite similar between users in rural and urban areas.
The survey was conducted among 1,400 participants living in rural areas, mostly in northern provinces. The survey participants were randomly selected and interviewed by telephone about their attitudes toward bear bile.
The survey revealed that bear bile is commonly used to address health problems, mostly for bruises, sprains and muscle pains.
Men were two times more likely to use bear bile than women,according to the survey. In fact, almost 40 percent of surveyed men said that they have used bear bile, compared to 24 percent of female participants.
According to the survey, age is also a very important factor influencing the use of bear bile. The use of bear bile increases as age increases. People aged 40 years and above were two times more likely to use bear bile than people in their 20s.
"Exploitation of bears to meet the demand for bear bile in Vietnam is a serious threat, not just to our remaining bears here in Vietnam, but to the region's bears," said Vu Thi Quyen, a specialist with ENV on consumer attitudes and behavior.
According to ENV, almost 3,000 bears currently held at bear farms come from the wilds not just of Vietnam, but also from Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, and other countries in the region.
"Reducing demand for bear bile in Vietnam is a top priority," said Quyen. "However, reducing consumer demand must coincide with effective enforcement and a genuine commitment by agencies responsible for wildlife protection, to aggressively enforce the law and put an end to bear farming in Vietnam."