Testimony of Dr. David L. Garshelis, Co-chair IUCN/SSC Bear Specialist Group, Bear Project Leader, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Adjunct Professor, University of Minnesota
Legislative Hearing on H.R. 3029: The Bear Protection Act of 2007
Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans
Committee on Natural Resources
United States House of Representatives
Hearing date: March 11, 2008
This testimony represents the views of the two largest groups of professional bear biologists and conservationists in the United States and globally (IUCN Bear Specialist Group and International Association for Bear Research and Management). We applaud the desire of the U.S. Congress to aid in the conservation of bears. Here, we raise four principal points regarding the proposed Bear Protection Act: (1) American black bears in the U.S. (and Canada) are thriving, and are minimally affected by poaching for bear parts. The Bear Protection Act will have little impact on populations of this species, now or in the future, although it may help to apprehend some poachers. (2) Poaching for bear parts (gall bladders and paws) is still rampant in Asia, even though the killing of bears and selling of bear parts is illegal in most Asian countries, and import and export of bear parts within Asia and between Asia and the U.S. is regulated by CITES. The Bear Protection Act, as written will provide no benefit to bear populations in Asia. (3) We recommend two additions to the bill: the inclusion of bear paws among the items banned from trade, and an exemption for scientists to transport bear parts across state lines for research purposes. Because there is great interest in the physiology of bear hibernation and potential applications to human medicine, some organs of bears are of particular interest, and are often shipped to experts in different parts of the country. (4) As this bill suggests a genuine concern by the U.S. Congress about the detrimental effects of the trade in bear parts on bear populations worldwide, we recommend more effective legislation that would directly address the dire situation for bears in Asia. Reduction of poaching is the paramount issue, and a multi-faceted effort to accomplish this will require significantly increased funding. Funding is also necessary to evaluate and address the issue of Chinese and Vietnamese bear farms (where ~13,000 bears are milked for their bile), and to provide scientific data on the extent, relative size, and changes in populations of wild bears, which can be used to highlight conservation problems and direct resources. If the Bear Protection Act included a funding provision like that of other multinational species conservation acts, this would dramatically improve the outlook for Asian bears.
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