KUALA LUMPUR - Roughly half of over 300 Malaysian traditional medicine shops surveyed in 2012 were found selling illegal items made from endangered bears.
Wildlife monitoring group Traffic found that some 175 of 365 shops surveyed here were selling medicine made from bear gall bladder or bile.
"The rate was highest in Peninsular Malaysia, where 51 per cent of the shops surveyed were found to sell bear products (or 148 shops)," the report named "Hard to Bear" said.
Products sold in these shops were found in many forms including whole bear gall bladders, bear bile pills, bile extract and many more.
Some of these are likely to have been sourced from Asiatic black bears found across East Asia and sun bears found in Southeast Asia, including Malaysia.
Prices, Trafficfound, ranged from RM0.40 (S$0.15) a pill to RM3,360 for a whole gall bladder weighing 38g.
While many of these items appear to have been imported, some gall bladders were supposedly sourced from Malaysia.
"Nearly 60 per cent of all bear gall bladders observed for retail were claimed to have been sourced from local bears," the report said.
Some shop owners admitted to Traffic that main sources of bear bladders included native Orang Asli and aborigines from Sabah and Sarawak.
Poachers, the group said, may have also been involved in the killing of bears here, though TRAFFIC said it did not have numbers of how many were hunted.
It is not known how many bears are being killed every year for their body parts, though the number may be anywhere from the hundreds to thousands.
The report added that more than 13,000 bears were likely held in bear farms across China, Laos, Myanmar, South Korea and Vietnam.
According to Malaysian law, the sun bear is a "totally protected" species in the Peninsular and Sabah. It enjoys a lesser "protected" status in Sarawak.
Malaysia is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which makes trade of the Asiatic black bear and sun bear illegal.