Vietnam is among the top-three Asian countries found trafficking in bear and bear parts used in traditional medicinal practices, a new report has confirmed.
At least 2,801 moon bears were traded to be used in Chinese medicine from 2000-2011, according to a report released Thursday by TRAFFIC, an international wildlife trade monitoring network.
The report, titled Brought to Bear: an Analysis of Seizures across Asia, detailed how the bears and bear body parts were recovered during the 11-year period.
Cambodia led the region with 190 seizures, followed by China with 145 cases and Vietnam with 102 cases.
Other countries with major seizures included Russia (59), Malaysia (38), Thailand (29), Lao PDR (29) and India (23), according to the report which surveyed 17 countries and territories across Asia.
“A staggering illegal trade in bears and their parts persists in the region which sounds the alarm on Asia’s ongoing widespread bear trade and the need for immediate international action,” TRAFFIC said in a press release.
The report found Russia and China alone accounted for 69 percent of the trade volume which is equal to a minimum of 1,934 bears, primarily due to the seizure of over 6,000 bear paws.
Such significant seizures in Russia and along the border with China suggest a prolific trade in bears and their parts between the two countries, according to TRAFFIC.
Important cross-border trade routes identified by the report include Nepal to India, Laos to Vietnam and China, Myanmar to China and Thailand and Vietnam to Japan and Singapore.
The confiscation of live bears accounted for 15 percent of all seizures, making it the second most commonly seized commodity after paws.
The most significant source countries for live bears include Cambodia and Vietnam.
“The number of seizures are a credit to the enforcement agencies, but they undoubtedly only stop a fraction of the overall trafficking because bear products are still widely and easily available across Asia,” said Chris Shepherd, regional director of TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.
The report recommended that authorities concerned and parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) closely examine the latest findings and take appropriate steps to assist countries where required.
They also urged that the authorities take a firm stance with countries that fail to comply with the Convention and called for improved regional law enforcement efforts, the consistent submission of seizure reports to CITES and for the closure of bear farms stocked with illegally-sourced wild bears.
“Where enforcement of laws protecting bears is taken seriously, it can be a tremendous deterrent,” said Shepherd.