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Abstract

Traditional Asian Medicines (TAM) contain plant and animal compounds that may be derived from endangered species (Cheng et al. 2014; Coghlan et al. 2015). This is a cause for concern as the use of wild animal parts in TAM can put added pressure on populations of many threatened species. The use of wildlife products in TAM has spread beyond Asia, via the Asian diaspora, to other continents including North America (Petrossian et al. 2016), Australia (Coghlan et al. 2012), and Africa (Nguyen and Robert 2020). Coghlan et al. (2012) found DNA from Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus) in TAM products in Australia, and trade of Asian species, for TAM purposes was also recorded recently in South Africa (Nguyen and Robert 2020). The aim of the current pilot study was to investigate the animal species composition of TAM products seized in the United Kingdom (UK). Fourteen TAM products suspected to contain illegal wildlife that had been seized over the last 20 years from shops in London, were provided by the Wildlife Crime Unit of the London Metropolitan Police and subjected to DNA nucleotide sequence analysis for species identification. DNA from all samples was recovered using the QIAGEN DNeasy blood and tissue DNA extraction kit, following the manufacturer’s instructions. The mitochondrial DNA cytochrome b gene was targeted for sequence analysis, as it is known to enable diagnostic identification of multiple mammalian species. PCR amplification was first attempted using universal mcb primers (Verma and Singh 2003) and subsequently, for products advertised as containing bear bile, using bear-specific primers, ut172f and ut367r (Peppin et al. 2008). Positive and negative controls were used throughout.
International Bear News
Tri-Annual Newsletter of the
International Association for
Bear Research and Management (IBA)
and the IUCN/SSC Bear Specialist Group
Spring 2020 Vol. 29 no. 1
IBA website:
www.bearbiology.org
The first photographic evidence of Himalayan Brown Bear from Lippa-Asrang Wildlife Sanctuary,
Himachal Pradesh, India. Photo credit: Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun. See page 23-25 for
more information on the research project that captured the photograph.
2
Table of Contents
International Bear News Spring 2020, vol. 29 no. 1
Managers Corner
32 Foot-Snaring Bears Near Population Centers
33 American Black Bear Dispersal into Iowa
and Indiana
Workshop reports
35 A Step Toward Developing Population
Monitoring Guidelines for Asian Bears
ConferenCe announCeMents
37 27th International Conference On Bear
Research & Management, September 21 –
25, 2020, Kalispell, Montana, United States
Workshop announCeMents
38 Human-Bear Conflict Conference, October
4-7, 2021, Lake Tahoe, Nevada, United
States
38 25th Eastern Black Bear Workshop, 2021.
Wisconsin
38 The 3rd International Symposium on Sun
Bear Conservation and Management
student foruM
38 Truman Listserv and Facebook Page
publiCations
39 Recent Bear Literature
iba offiCers & CounCil
45 Executive Council Members and Ex-Officio
Members
bsg expert teaM Chairs
47 Bear Specialist Group Team Chairs
international bear neWs
3 International Bear News, ISSN #1064-1564
iba president/ iuCn bsg Co-Chairs
4 President’s Column
6 Earth Day 2020: An Opportunity to Reflect
on Bears Over the Past 50 Years
iba MeMber neWs
8 Transition News
9 In Memoriam: David Wildt
10 In Memoriam: Glen Contreras
Conservation
11 Sun Bear Conservation Action Plan
Implementation Update
13 Update of Florida Bear Plan documents
Conservation Success
15 Possible Evidence for a Lack of Medicinal
Efficacy in Sun Bear Bile?
Illegal Trade
17 International Trade in Bear Products for
Traditional Asian Medicine
biologiCal researCh
20 What’s on the Menu for Brown Bears at
Golestan Restaurant?
21 Sign Surveys Reveal Andean Bear Habitat
Use in Guaramacal National Park,
Venezuelan Andes
23 First Photographic Evidence of Himalayan
Brown Bear from Lippa-Asrang Wildlife
Sanctuary, Himachal Pradesh, India
26 Is Climate Change Allowing the Asiatic
Black Bear to Inhabit a Trans-Himalayan
Valley of Himachal Pradesh (India)?
29 Attempts to Find Three Bear Species in
Meghalaya, India
3
Table of Contents
International Bear News Spring 2020, vol. 29 no. 1
International Bear News, ISSN #1064-1564
Tri-Annual Newsletter of the International Association for Bear Research and Management
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International Bear News Spring 2020 vol. 29 no. 1 1717
Illegal Trade
International Trade in Bear Products for Traditional Asian Medicine
Trang Nguyen
Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology
School of Anthropology and Conservation
University of Kent, Marlowe Building
Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NR, UK
and
WildAct Vietnam
TT26, Ha Dong
Hanoi, Vietnam
Email: tn215@kent.ac.uk
Brian Crudge
Free the Bears, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
and
Department of Natural Sciences and Environmental Health,
University of Southeast Norway, NO-3800, Bø i Telemark,
Norway
Rob Ogden
Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and the Roslin
Institute, Easter Bush Campus, University of Edinburgh, EH25
9RG, United Kingdom
and
TRACE Wildlife Forensics Network, 16 Corstorphine Hill
Avenue, Edinburgh EH12 6LE, United Kingdom
David L. Roberts
Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, School of
Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent, Marlowe
Building, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NR, UK
Traditional Asian Medicines (TAM) contain plant and animal compounds that may be derived from endangered species
(Cheng et al. 2014; Coghlan et al. 2015). This is a cause for concern as the use of wild animal parts in TAM can put added
pressure on populations of many threatened species. The use of wildlife products in TAM has spread beyond Asia, via the
Asian diaspora, to other continents including North America (Petrossian et al. 2016), Australia (Coghlan et al. 2012), and Africa
(Nguyen and Robert 2020). Coghlan et al. (2012) found DNA from Asiatic black bear (
Ursus thibetanus
) in TAM products in
Australia, and trade of Asian species, for TAM purposes was also recorded recently in South Africa (Nguyen and Robert 2020).
The aim of the current pilot study was to investigate the animal species composition of TAM products seized in the United
Kingdom (UK).
Fourteen TAM products suspected to contain illegal wildlife that had been seized over the last 20 years from shops in
London, were provided by the Wildlife Crime Unit of the London Metropolitan Police and subjected to DNA nucleotide
sequence analysis for species identification. DNA from all samples was recovered using the QIAGEN DNeasy blood and tissue
DNA extraction kit, following the manufacturer’s instructions. The mitochondrial DNA cytochrome b gene was targeted for
sequence analysis, as it is known to enable diagnostic identification of multiple mammalian species. PCR amplification was
first attempted using universal mcb primers (Verma and Singh 2003) and subsequently, for products advertised as contain-
ing bear bile, using bear-specific primers, ut172f and ut367r (Peppin et al. 2008). Positive and negative controls were used
throughout.
DNA sequence results were obtained for 2 of the 14 samples. For sample 07, a product labelled as powdered bear gall,
manufactured by the Guizhentang Pharmaceutical Company in China, the sequence results identified DNA originating from
the Asiatic black bear. However sample 08, labelled as bear gallbladder, and was identified as originating from a domestic
pig (
Sus domesticus
). Unfortunately, the other products that were submitted for DNA analysis did not yield amplifiable DNA.
Although we were only able to obtain sequence from 2 TAM products, this finding is evidence that some individuals have
been engaged in international trade of bear bile from China for use as TAM products in the UK. The Guizhentang Pharma-
ceutical Company, registered in Fujian, China, is known for extracting bile from farmed bears to produce TAM (Jian 2012).
Although bear bile extraction and trade are permitted in China, all international cross-border import or export without
proper permits is an infraction of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
(CITES) trade regulations (Foley et al. 2011). It is noteworthy that bear products (confirmed with DNA analysis) found over
the counter in Australia and bear products observed during market surveys in South Africa were also manufactured by this
company (Coghlan et al. 2012; Nguyen and Roberts 2020). Among the 14 TAM products analyzed here, 8 were identified in
a market survey in South Africa. Although it was not possible to obtain these products from South Africa for the purpose
of this study, since the bear products match those from the Guizhentang Pharmaceutical Company, it is probable that bear
products found in South Africa are also genuinely from
U. thibetanus
.
The presence of dried pig gallbladder in this study demonstrates the use of fake products in the TAM trade, although it is
not clear whether or not the seller was aware of its true identity. The practice of advertising gallbladder from other species
International Bear News Spring 2020, vol. 29 no. 1
1818
Illegal Trade
is not uncommon. Jabin et al. (2019), using genetic analysis, found that 3 gallbladders suspected to be
U. thibetanus
were
actually Sambar deer (
Rusa unicolor
) and cattle (
Bos indicus
). The trade in fake products has been identified as a potential
difficulty for regulation and enforcement (Foley et al. 2011). In the UK, simply advertising a product for sale as containing a
CITES-listed species without the correct permits constitutes an offence under CITES regulations, regardless of whether or
not its authenticity has been established. Some countries (e.g., Singapore) have extended legal restrictions to include fake
specimens purported to be from CITES-listed species (Foley et al. 2011).
Asiatic black bears and majority of other species products that were included in this study are listed on Appendix I
of CITES. Therefore, international trade in TAM products containing these species is illegal and demand for them poses
a serious threat to species survival (Graham-Rowe 2011). This study raises concerns over the scale of the TAM market for
threatened species, outside of Asia. It is possible that Chinese migrants smuggle these products into other regions in order
to satisfy the demand of Chinese diaspora communities. This demand can also impact wildlife populations outside of Asia:
Research by Kennedy et al. (2018), highlighted the historical trade of brown bear (
U. arctos
) paws at Chinese diaspora sites
in western North America, showing the impact of consumer demand on local wildlife populations. Overall demand for the
parts of bears and other species may be increased greatly if consumption behaviours spread to the local non-Asian popu-
lace and/or incorporate other wildlife species as substitutes (Nguyen and Roberts 2020; Nguyen et al. 2020).
All 14 products analysed in this study claimed to include at least one protected species. Without scientific analysis it is
impossible to know if manufactured TAM products contain endangered species or were falsely labelled (Newmaster et al.
2013). The trade in processed products represents a challenge to effective law enforcement. However, DNA analysis is not
always effective at determining species presence. In the absence of consistent, robust methods of species identification for
TAM, it is recommended that all CITES member states enact legislation that extends trade regulations to include all parts
or products advertised or traded as containing endangered species, irrespective of their actual composition. Our findings
contribute to the understanding of the TAM trade in threatened species, particularly of the bear bile/gallbladder trade,
driven by the Chinese diaspora.
Literature Cited
Cheng, X., X. Su, X. Chen, H. Zhao, C. Bo, J. Xu, H. Bai, and K. Ning. 2014. Biological ingredient analysis of traditional
Chinese medicine preparation based on high-throughput sequencing: the story for Liuwei Dihuang Wan. Scientific
Reports 4: 5147.
Fourteen TAM products suspected to contain illegal wildlife that had been seized over the last 20 years from shops
in London, were subjected to DNA nucleotide sequence analysis for species identification.
International Bear News Spring 2020 vol. 29 no. 1 1919
Illegal Trade
Coghlan, M.L., G. Maker, E. Crighton, J. Haile, D. C. Murray, N. E. White et al. 2015. Combined DNA, toxicological and heavy
metal analyses provides an auditing toolkit to improve pharmacovigilance of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
Scientific Reports 5: 17475
Coghlan, M.L., J. Haile, J. Houston, D. C. Murray, N. E. White, P. Moolhuijzen, M. I. Bellgard, and M. Bunce. 2012. Deep se-
quencing of plant and animal DNA contained within Traditional Chinese Medicines reveals legality issues and health
safety concerns. PLOS
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1002657
.
Foley, K. E.,C. J. Stengel and C. R. Shepherd. 2011. Pills, powders, vials and flakes: the bear bile trade in Asia. TRAFFIC
Southeast Asia, Selangor, Malaysia.
Gomez, L. and C. R. Shepherd. 2018. Trade in bears in Lao PDR with observations from market surveys and seizure data.
Global Ecology and Conservation 15, p.e00415.
Graham-Rowe D. 2011. Biodiversity: endangered and in demand. Nature 480: S101–S103.
Jabin, G., S. K. Singh, A. Ghosh, S. Basu, K. Chandra and M. Thakur. 2019. Illegal trade of obscured bear parts: a case study
of identifying the suspected bear gall bladders. Forensic Science International: Reports.
Jian, Y. 2012. Anger over bear bile company’s fundraising bid. People’s Daily Online. Access online on 14 July 2019:
ht tp://
en.people.cn/90882/7727130.html
Kennedy, J.R., L. Rogers and F. A. Kaestle. 2018. Ancient DNA evidence for the regional trade of bear paws by Chinese
diaspora communities in 19th-century western North America. Journal of Archaeological Science 99: 135-142.
Newmaster, S.G., M. Grguric, D. Shanmughanandhan, S. Ramalingam, S. Ragupathy. 2013. DNA barcoding detects con-
tamination and substitution in North American herbal products. BMC Medicine 11: 222.
Nguyen, T., and D. L. Roberts. 2020. Interviews with purveyors of endangered wildlife for Traditional Asian Medicine in
South Africa and Vietnam. Submitted to Environmental Conservation. In Review
Nguyen, T., A. Hughes, B. Crudge, D. L. Roberts. 2020. Growing demand for wild animal parts use in South Africa. Submit-
ted to Biological Conservation. In Review.
Petrossian, G.A., S. F. Pires and D. P. van Uhm. 2016. An overview of seized illegal wildlife entering the United States.
Global Crime 17:181-201.
Verma, S.K. and L. Singh. 2003. Novel universal primers establish identity of an enormous number of animal species for
forensic application. Molecular Ecology Notes 3: 28-31.
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