In their efforts to better understand ongoing wildlife trafficking and the dynamics of unsustainable bear product use by consumers in Cambodia, a team of researchers led by San Diego Zoo Global made an unexpected discovery: the use of bear bile and body parts in traditional remedies consumed by new and pregnant mothers. The use of traditional medicines derived from bear bile and gallbladders by young and expecting mothers for ailments related to pregnancy had not been previously documented. With populations of wildlife–including bears–in decline across Southeast Asia, understanding this large consumer base could inform conservation efforts in the region, the researchers wrote in a study published recently in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine.
“To effectively conserve bear populations, we must reduce poaching of bears through reducing demand pressures such as use of bear bile for maternal health,” said Elizabeth Oneita Davis, Ph.D., the study’s lead author, a postdoctoral associate in Community Engagement at San Diego Zoo Global. “In Cambodia, we are currently working in a rural community to encourage older women to support expecting mothers by accompanying them to the doctor and advising them to take biomedicine.”