Facing medical torture, Chinese bear reportedly kills cub, then self

By Stephen C. Webster
Friday, August 12, 2011 10:35 EDT
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Ever wonder if animals are intelligent? Consider this story from the Chinese press, which has been reporting this week on the strange case of a mother bear who broke free of her captors, strangled her cub, then killed herself, all to avoid a life of medical torture.

In Chinese traditional medicine, a bear’s bile, extracted from the gallbladder, is thought to have healing powers. “Bear farmers” keep the animals in tiny cages where they are literally crushed as they grow larger and larger. Meanwhile, a small hole is cut in their abdomens, permanently, where bile can be drained from the gallbladder.

The practice has led to people observing some rather unusual bear behavior, like bears that attempt to kill themselves by hitting their chests, gnawing off their paws or beating their heads against their cage as if they’d gone insane.

In this case, a mother bear reportedly broke free after hearing her cub’s cry, causing “farmers” to run away in fear. She then ran to the cub’s side and immediately smothered it, then ran headlong into a wall and killed herself instantly.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature estimates (PDF) that approximately 14,000 Asiatic, Brown and Sun bears across south Asia suffer this type of treatment, accounting for approximately half of the species’ population in the region.

Out of the thousands of bear bile products seized by authorities every year, approximately 98 percent come from China, but the practice is commonplace in other nations too, like Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Japan.

(H/T: Asia One)

Image credit: Flickr commons.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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