In parts of South East Asia, these bears are milked for their bile. The bear bile is believed to be a cure for fever. It is found in everything from tea to toothpaste. Despite how widespread the practice has been and still seems to be – there’s no proven benefit.
There are synthetic alternatives to the bile. The bear bile milking practice has only just been outlawed in Vietnam.
Bears are taken as cubs from the wild and kept in cages until they’re 1 or 2 years old. The young bears are then milked once or twice a week.
The hero charities of this Extinction Sucks episode are Free the Bears and Traffic.
Free the Bears is a charity which tries to find sanctuaries for rescued bears. These bears can never go back to the wild so need natural enclosures. Free the Bears is run by Mary Hutton who features in this episode.
Ashleigh and Aleisha plan a bear fundraiser so Free the Bears can buy robust toys for the bears to play with and try and redevelop their natural rummaging skills.
Dare-for-a-Bear contest to raise funds which involve Afro-Caribbean dance contest.
They then travel on to Vietnam, speak to Sulma Warne of Traffic, and try to understand the cultural atmosphere which would allow bear bile milking to persist and for bears to be cruelly kept in tiny cages.
In Pure Spirit
If you’d like to find out more about helping bears then you can read about them at WWF’s Panda.org.