Spare that Bear, profiteers !!

Spare that Bear, profiteers !!

A dying bear that had its bile extracted for more than ten years in a small cage was finally rescued in 2004 in Tianjin.

A bear which has its bile extracted for a period of 10 years could provide a profit of 30,000 yuan (US$4,765) for its owner, according to local media in China.

Analysts say even small companies producing bear bile are making 300% returns each year, let alone larger, more commercial companies such as Guizhentang, the country's biggest bear bile producer, which has recently attracted criticism for its plans to launch an IPO.

Bear bile is valued for its use in traditional Chinese medicine. According to figures, there are more than 10,000 bears in legal bear farms in China, but there may be many more which are kept by private operators.

In northeast China, a small private operator usually keeps two to three bears while bigger farms may have a few dozen.

A bear cub costs 20,000 yuan (US$3,175) to buy and can have its bile extracted from the age of three. The extraction process can be carried out for about 10 years until the bear dies. Asian black bears can live for up to 30 years in the wild, but bears in farms tend to live only 13 to 15 years.

An adult bear can provide about 10kg of bile powder every year, of which each kilo is worth 4,000 yuan, thus having an "output value" of 40,000 yuan (US$6,350) a year for its owner.

On the input cost side, a bear might cost 7,000 yuan (US$1,110) a year to feed and 3,000 yuan (US$475) per year for the equipment to extract its bile, which means that owners could make 30,000 yuan a year for a net profit of 300%.

Some argue that the cost of buying cubs is not counted in the cost. However, when the bear dies, its paws and meat can be sold to recoup the initial investment.

Since bear farms are so lucrative, it is no surprise that many farmers, including Guizhentang, which can make an even larger profit from keeping several hundred bears, have refused to give up this business.