PETALING JAYA: Sun bears are still under threat as the number of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shops selling the animal’s bile and by-products has increased compared to four years ago, says wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic.
The NGO said bear-based medicines were offered in 69% of TCM shops surveyed in peninsular Malaysia from 2017 to last year, compared to 48% in 2012.
The study surveyed 318 TCM outlets across Peninsular Malaysia between 2017 and 2018 and in 2012,365 TCM shops were checked.
In its report on the study carried out between 2017 and 2018, it said TCM shops in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor recorded the highest number of bear bile products followed by Johor and Perak.
It said that 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 while bear bile pills were easily available, its authenticity was unclear due to varied and inconsistent claims by retailers and labelling or the lack of it.
“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. But 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.
Traffic noted that Malaysian Federation of Chinese Physicians and Medicine Dealers Association of Malaysia president Ting Ka Hua told them that the Federation was committed to ensuring that business was conducted responsibly and legally.
“We are working with Traffic and the regulatory bodies to educate our members to be compliant with laws, ” Ting was quoted as saying.