PETALING JAYA: There has been an increase in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shops selling products, claiming to contain some form of bear bile compared to four years ago, says a wildlife trade monitoring network.
Traffic said bear-based medicines were offered in 69% of TCM shops surveyed in peninsular Malaysia from 2017 to 2018, compared to 2012, when it was just 48%.
It said TCM shops in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor recorded the highest number of bear bile products, followed by Johor and Perak.
It noted that in its study, however, that it did not cover Sabah and Sarawak.
It said the most common product found on sale were bear bile pills (88%) followed by gall bladders (7%), vials (3%), powder (1%), ointments (0.5%), and gall bladder capsules (0.5%).
Traffic also noted that although bear bile pills were easily available, the authenticity was unclear due to varied and inconsistent claims by retailers and labelling, or the lack of it.
It said only a few sellers claimed to have pure bear bile pills, compared to its previous survey in 2012.
“While trade remains open, it has become less clear whether retailers are selling genuine bear bile products, or are simply trying to circumvent the law by claiming their bear bile products only contain herbs and other animal bile.
"Most retailers either told researchers that the sale of bear bile products was prohibited, or that some pills sold as bear bile actually contained a mixture of herbs and other animal bile.
"In two cases, sellers told researchers that any purchase of bear bile products would not be reflected in receipts.
“If indeed a growing number of traders are passing off other ingredients - be it animal-based parts or not - as bear-bile medicine, this adds another worrying dimension to the problem and one that requires scrutiny by regulatory bodies.
"Regardless, this practice sustains the belief that bear-based medicine is effective and fuels the demand and illegal trade in bears, ” said South-East Asia Traffic director Kanitha Krishnasamy in a statement on Monday (Oct 21).
Traffic released its latest report on a study it conducted from 2017 to 2018 on the bear bile trade in peninsular Malaysia on Monday.
The study surveyed 318 TCM outlets across peninsular Malaysia.
It noted that it surveyed the shops it previously did in 2012, with the exception of those which have since closed down or could not be located, as well as new additional outlets previously not discovered.
In 2012, Traffic surveyed 365 TCM shops across all states in Malaysia.
Traffic noted that Malaysian Federation of Chinese Physicians and Medicine Dealers Association of Malaysia (FCPMDAM) president Ting Ka Hua had said the federation was committed to ensuring that business is conducted responsibly and legally.
"We are working with Traffic and the regulatory bodies to educate our members to be compliant with the law, ” Ting was quoted as saying.