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The continuing trade in bear parts is just a blueprint for extinction of the species. Poaching of black bears for their parts clearly reveals a deep spiritual malaise in our society. Gall bladders are dried and added as crushed powder in combination with other body parts or herbs and are used in at least 55 traditional Asian medicines. Considered a delicacy, bear paw soup is an off-the-menu dish in Oriental restaurants, both in Asia and abroad. Bear penises are harvested for their reputed aphrodisiac. The leading importer of bear parts is Japan, where they are processed for export to other Asian countries. The bear gallbladder is up to 18 times more valuable than heroin, making it possibly the most valuable organic commodity in the world.  The known record price for a single top-grade gall is $64,000. As long as gall bladders are worth more than gold to Asian businessmen, bear populations around the world will continue to decline; and the fewer the bears, the more valuable their parts, with prices soaring according to supply and demand. 

The black bears' biggest enemies are lax provincial laws and their inadequate enforcement. Black bears are listed on Appendix II of the Convention on the International Trade on Endangered Species (CITES), a step away from the "endangered" status of Appendix I. This measure is meant to curb the Asian trade in bear parts by removing a look-alike loophole that allows traders to claim their bear parts were taken from North American, legally-killed bears. But this listing, and provincial legislation banning possession of gall bladders and other parts, is not enough to save the species from hungry foreign markets. Out of control poaching poses an even more serious threat  than sports hunting. Ten years from now, there won't be any bears left .

In B.C., first-time offenders can receive a $5,000 fine per count, yet that does not deter crime because the profits offer much more in reward than the fines. Federal experts estimate more than 3,500 bears are killed by poachers every year for their gall bladders. Our society has not developed a culture or system of ethics with which to understand the concept of extinction. The disappearance of a form of life from this planet, a product of over four billion years of organic evolution vanishes due to the ignorant practices of a few hundred years. If the demise of the black bear continues, we will likely follow it down the path to extinction.

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