Monday, June 4, 2018

Mammal Monday -- Asian Black Bears

As I read through my newspaper this morning, I came across an article about Asian black bears.  The bile from these bears is used in some traditional medical practices, which is bad news for the bears.  What is bile?  Bile is a substance that is produced (in mammals -- humans too) by the liver, stored in the gall bladder, and then released into the small intestine to help to emulsify fats.  This process allows the digestive system to better break down fats into smaller, more easily absorbed molecules. 

Unfortunately, for the Asian black bear, this bile is also desired by humans to treat various medical issues.  This is a big business in China, where (according to the Washington Post article linked above) over 10,000 bears are kept on nearly 70 farms. Overharvesting by humans is one of the five top causes of species extinction and endangerment (habitat loss, pollution, non-native invasive species, and climate change are the other four).  But there's good news!  VietNam and South Korea are both moving to eliminate the harvest of bear bile.  Hopefully, the Chinese government will follow their lead.

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