The practice of consuming bear bile is extremely popular across Asia. It is believed that the bear’s bile fluid contains medicinal properties that can do everything from cure a hangover to improve dental hygiene and treat about every other ailment in between. Despite the fact that there is little proof that taking bear bile is any more effective than popping a Tylenol, people continue to pay for this “remedy,” largely at the costs of the bears themselves.

Sun bears and Moon bears are the primary targets of the bile industry. Typically, these bears are captured from the wild at a young age and sold into life on a bile farm.

Bear bile farms are unbelievably cruel operations where bears are locked into tiny “crush” cages and tortured with sharp objects to drain the bile from inside of their gallbladders, over and over again. Some of the poor animals have permanent seeping wounds, with bags attached to catch the fluid. This is the tragic future in store for Mara the Moon bear, but this all changed when Animals Asia stepped in to rescue her.

This little sweetie was being smuggled on a passenger bus from Vietnam bound for Laos. She was petrified and malnourished when the Forest Protection Department found her, weighing in at only a few pounds. 

While the lifespan of a wild bear is estimated at 35 years, bile farm bears rarely make it more than five years living under such horrific conditions. Without the help and dedication of groups like Animals Asia, this poor little lady would have spent the rest of her life in a cage, knowing nothing but fear and pain.

These days, the eight-year-old bear live a peaceful life filled with romping and napping. She has grown into a healthy, confident adult with a big personality, who bears little resemblance to the starving, scared orphan that she once was.

Reflecting on Mara’s transformation, Animals Asia Bear Manager Sarah Dempsey says, “It’s strange to think beautiful calm Mara was ever this fragile, scared cub in a tiny cage. She’s a huge part of the sanctuary now.”

With modern alternatives available that do not rely on animal sources, the tide is finally starting to turn for the bear bile industry. Vietnam has even announced plans to ban bear bile farming in their country by 2020, which means that for Asian Black Bears like Mara, help is on the way.



Despite all of this progress, there are over 7,000 bears living in bile farms in China alone. Bear bile products have been found in markets throughout Asia and this demand still makes farming these animals profitable. If you would like to assist Animals Asia in their efforts to stop this barbaric trade, please visit their website by clicking here.

All image source: Animals Asia