Sat, May 14, 2011 - Page 9 News List

Asia’s suffering bears exploited for bile

With bear ‘farms’ in China and Vietnam coming under increasing pressure to close, Laos could become a major bear farming center, as the country lacks restrictions on the practice

By Amelie Bottollier-Depois  /  AFP, BOTEN, LAOS

“A lot of Vietnamese farmers are moving to Laos to start their farm there because the Vietnamese government is clamping down on them,” Ng said.

Foley said one of TRAFFIC’s concerns is that “with increasing pressure to close down farms in China and Vietnam, there could be a burgeoning market in Laos and Myanmar, just because the restrictions are less.”

In Laos, the breeding is mainly run by either Vietnamese or Chinese, Osborne said.

“We need to be vigilant towards any attempts to illegally establish farms within Laos. We are working closely with the authorities here to try to ensure that this situation does not occur,” he said.

At the airport in the Laotian capital, Vientiane, a large billboard shows pictures of bears and cautions that illegal wildlife trafficking is punishable by the law.

“Every time you buy ... nature pays,” it says.

However, demand is strong. In Boten, Se’s shop is well established.

“I bought some bile for my cousin who has a bad knee,” said one customer, who leaves with a tiny vial that he bought for US$4.

For those looking for something more, Se also offers bear teeth, elephant skin and serpent wine. All displayed among sex toys and pornographic DVDs.

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