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Endangered species: Rare bears

The Labrador duck is long gone and the wild Vancouver Island marmot is struggling to bounce back, but the whooping crane, the swift fox and the bison are actually making comebacks. With more than 30 species already gone and over 400 species of plants and animals at risk, Canada is starting to get serious about protecting its endangered species. Let's hope it's not too late.

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The illegal killing and trading of animal parts is a highly lucrative business and has long been a global concern. Enticed by huge profits, poachers have driven many species to the brink of extinction worldwide. CBC Television's Simon Gardiner learns that an abundance of black bears has lured many poachers to Canada. Wildlife officers are concerned that poaching and trafficking in animal parts, especially black bears, is out of control. 
. Illegal trafficking in animal parts is one of the most profitable international crime activities.
. Bear gall bladders are sought for their aphrodisiac properties, but it is more their use as cures in traditional Chinese medicine that make them so valuable.
. While many parts of the bear have medicinal use, the gall bladder is the most sought after and has been reported to command as much as $10,000.

. Dried bear gall bladders are worth more by weight than gold and many narcotics.
. Despite the availability of an effective synthetic alternative, Asian demand for bear gall bladders continues to be high and impacts bear populations around the world. Canadian bears are particularly enticing due to cheap hunting permits and relative abundance.

. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international body that seeks to reduce or eliminate the exploitation of endangered species worldwide by regulating wildlife trade.
. Canada was one of the first countries to ratify the United Nations-sponsored CITES when it was established in 1975.

. While CITES prohibits the international trade of endangered species, trade in non-endangered species such as the black bear is not illegal, but is regulated by permit.
. As of 2004, a one-year permit to hunt black bears cost $35 in Quebec, $34 in Ontario, $30 in Manitoba and $17 in Saskatchewan.
. Bear paw soup is considered a delicacy in many parts of Asia, often priced as high as $1,000 US per bowl and sometimes higher if made with the front left paw taken from a live bear.

. The relatively new field of wildlife forensics has been very useful in cases of poaching and trading in endangered animal parts. In 1991 The Wildlife Forensics DNA Laboratory at Trent University produced the first DNA evidence involving a wildlife infraction to be accepted into a North American court.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: May 23, 1991
Guest(s): Kevin Cowan, Gord Graham, Dave Harvey, Monte Hummel
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Simon Gardner
Duration: 2:10

Last updated: February 16, 2012

Page consulted on October 8, 2014

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