Would you like to help moon bears? These beautiful bears are often ripped from their mothers to spend their lives in cages, having bile drained for medicine. The world’s smallest bears (and the second-rarest after pandas) are so-called due to their crescent-shaped white marks on their black fur. They like to climb trees to get fruit (and sleep in trees too) and tear open the trunks to get honey, which creates nesting sites for flying squirrels and hornbills.
Found in 18 countries (including China and Iran), moon bears are also at risk from habitat loss, poaching and the palm oil industry. Bears are used for bile, because they are the only mammals to produce ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA – used in the drug Ursodiol, cow and pig bile is also used). And the bile is used to supposedly treat liver disease and gallstones. but Professor Clifford J Steer (Minnesota) says synthetic UDCA is as good and cheaper. And Dr Sun Ji Xian and Professor Feng Yibin say herbal alternatives (pdf) are just as good.
- Animals Asia Store sells organic cotton tees and sweatshirts, all made in a factory using renewable energy. For men, women and children – profits are used to help rescue moon bears and sun bears in the bile industry.
- Never use traditional Chinese medicine, unless you get written guarantees of no use of bear bile, tiger horn or rhino horn (illegal here, but some gets through).
- Find alternatives to palm oil (vegan butter, peanut butter, soap).
- Kate on Conservation has a great post on how Animals Asia are helping moon bears (this charity also helps to stop the dog/cat meat trade). She also reviews the DVD To the Moon and Back, which features animal welfare campaigner and actor Peter Egan.
- Don’t buy toothpaste, acne treatment, shampoo or tea from dodgy shops, as these items can contain hidden bear bile.
- Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has info on the latest ways to prevent/treat liver disease and gallstones (low-fat, plant-based foods, avoiding excessive body weight and alcohol, avoiding HRT and hormonal contraception). Under medical supervision, they sometimes recommend the herb milk thistle (not for pregnancy, diabetes, some cancers and aster allergies).
Helping Moon Bear Charities
These charities all do wonderful work. You can set up an anonymous charity giving account, to give to who you want, without getting upsetting emails thereafter:
Books about Moon Bears
- Jasper’s Story is the true story (from Animal Asia’s founder) of the rescue of a caged bear in rural China, who was rescued, and died peacefully and happy in a bear sanctuary.
- Moon Bear is children’s take about a young boy, who works at a bear farm in the city, to send money back to his family. When a sick cub arrives, Tam secretly nurses him back to health and they develop an unbreakable bond. He swears to return Tam to the wild, but how can they find a way to be free?
- Saving Sun Bears is the story of Malaysian ecologist Dr Wong Siew Te (‘Papa Bear’ to his fans, who include Dame Judi Dench who watched him release bears at his rescue sanctuary). One happy resident likes to find treats in bouncy balls, and hops about when excited! You can donate direct to buy toys, medication, food – and a hammock to sleep it off in!