Bears And Humans
All bears except polar bears are regarded as therapeutic in traditional medicine in Asia. In particular, fluid from the gall bladder is thought to have many health-enhancing qualities. Many Asiatic black bears are kept in captivity, where they have tubes implanted into their gall bladder from which bile fluid is continuously withdrawn without killing the animal. It is also thought that an aphrodisiac, or love potion, can be made from the gall bladders of bears. The flesh of bear paws is regarded as a gourmet food in eastern Asia. Because of these uses, the Asiatic black bear has long been intensively hunted, and is now an endangered species. Many American black bears and Eurasian brown bears are also killed so that their gall bladder can be harvested and exported to eastern Asia.
Even the extremely rare spectacled bear of South America is hunted by indigenous people, who believe their fat is useful in the treatment of arthritis.
In addition to the problem of excessive hunting, all bears are being affected by habitat destruction, mostly to develop agricultural land. When humans move into natural habitat, bears are often the first animals to be eliminated. All species of bears have declining populations, and some are endangered. If their populations are not better conserved, it is possible that some species of bears will become extinct.
See also Pandas.
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Jean F. Blashfield