SINGAPORE is part of a long-established trade route for illegal bear bile products and "sustains a well-developed" domestic market for them, a new report claims.
Traffic, an international group that monitors illegal wildlife trade, analysed 694 officially reported seizures of bears and bear products from 2000 to 2011 in 17 Asian countries.
Singapore accounted for just 3 per cent, or 23, of these cases. The main culprits were Cambodia, China, Vietnam and Russia.
However, the report noted, the seizures reported here had occurred "consistently" - in seven of the 12 years studied - indicating that there is "a continual trade route for processed bear products".
The report showed that at least 2,801 individual bears were traded within Asia for their parts and products between 2000 and 2011.
Bear bile is taken from the gall bladders of bears held captive at illegal "bear farms" in Asia. It is used as an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicines, to treat ailments such as epilepsy and fever.
Bears are also trafficked for their meat, skin and paws, and as trophies.
This trade violates international conservation laws as it targets endangered Asian black bears and sun bears. Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), which Singapore has signed, trade in bears and their parts and products is prohibited.
Dr Chris Shepherd, Traffic's regional director for South-east Asia, said: "The number of seizures is a credit to enforcement agencies, but they undoubtedly stop only a fraction of the overall trafficking as bear products are still widely and easily available across Asia."
Apart from tougher law enforcement, the report urged Singapore and other Asian nations to find ways to reduce the consumption of bear bile in traditional medicines, through education, and to carry out research into possible substitutes.
The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) told The Straits Times that it regularly monitors shops and online sources for illegal wildlife products, and carries out surprise checks on shops. AVA also distributes advisories to educate retailers about Cites and its requirements.
This article was first published on August 22, 2014.
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