are bears being poached for their gall bladders?
for bears, they are the only species with a gall bladder that produces
fairly large quantities of bile, or bile salts, an ingredient that has
been used in traditional Asian medicines for as long as 3,000 years.
It is reported to cure a number of ailments, including cirrhosis of
the liver, high blood pressure, jaundice, diabetes, heart disease, fever,
headache, hemorrhoids, severe burns, and tooth decay. It also is used
in health care products such as shampoo, and as a food delicacy. While
synthetic forms of UDCA
(the active ingredient in bile that has been proven
to have some medicinal qualities) are available, there is a tradition
that indicates the cure must come from nature to be effective. Prices
for bear gall bladders are astronomically high in some countries
in Japan, gall bladders can sell for $1500 to $4000 each. A bear gall
bladder is approximately the size of a human thumb, and is virtually
indistinguishable from the gall bladder of a cow or a pig in its dried,
"fig-like" state. Fakes have flooded the market, leading some
people to go to extraordinary lengths to obtain authentic gall bladders.
This has led to an increase in poaching across North America and Russia.
Having the bear killed before your eyes ensures that the gall bladder
is the real thing.
illustration from National Bowhunters Educ. Foundation
don't bears have tails?
did have large tails, several million years ago! Since that time, the
tail has been reduced to a small, furry flap of skin measuring only
about 4.8 inches in length. There are many folktales, stories, and legends
that attempt to explain why the bear lost its tail. The scientific theory
is far less exciting. It is believed that the bear lost its tail through
the process of evolution, because it really did not need it. While dogs
and other animals use their tails as a means of communication, bears
tend to "face things" head on. Their display behavior often
involves facing forward, either on two feet or four, leaving the tail
practically invisible, and thus useless.