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DNA analysis used for identification of confiscated gall bladders

DNA analysis used for identification of confiscated gall bladders

Kolkata: In a classical case of species identification through DNA analysis, the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has found that suspected bear gall bladders confiscated by the state Forest department actually belonged to a sambar dear and a cattle.

The Zoological Survey of India recently received three gall bladders suspected to be of Asiatic Black Bear from the state Forest department seeking technical inputs on species identification to prosecute the case in the court of law for the implementation of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 of India.

However, it was found that two of the gall bladders were of Sambar deer while the other one was that of a

cattle.

Emerging illegal trade of bear bile and body parts is a threat to the wild populations of Asian bear species. Many times similar products mimicking bear gall bladders are sold in the markets and consumers are fooled as they purchase fake products.

"This indicates the proliferating demand of bear gall bladders in the grey market and in the lack of appropriate supply, poachers kill any species readily available extract their gall bladders and sell them to the illegal grey market," said Mukesh Thakur, of the Centre for DNA Taxonomy, he Zoological Survey of India.

Apart from Thakur, Gul Jabin, Sujeet K. Singh, Avijit Ghosh and Shambadeb Basu were involved in the study under the leadership of he Zoological Survey of India director Kailash Chandra.

The illegal practices of killing of less conservation priority wildlife do collateral damages to the lesser known species by increasing risk of local extinction from the wild.

Furthermore, among the different illegally traded species, free-ranging wild bears are poached for the demand of their gall bladder, pelt and paws. Among eight species of bear that are distributed across the world except for Africa, Australia and Antartica, four species, i.e. brown bear (Ursus arctos), Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus), sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) and sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) are known to be distributed in the country.

In India, bile extracted from the bear gall bladders are mostly used by the Shoka tribe in the beliefs of curing several diseases.

It also gets illegally smuggled to China for their demand in the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to cure various ailments, such as fever, gall stones, liver problems, heart disease, and eye irritation.

Bear bile sells at a huge price in the international market and cross-border trafficking of the same through Uttarakhand to Nepal and China is common. Two of the four species of bears in India are listed as vulnerable (Asiatic black bear and sloth bear) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. All the four species of bears have been given utmost conservation priority and listed as Schedule-I under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 of India.

"The use of molecular technologies and barcoding in wildlife forensic has shown applicability in

identifying species even from the morphologically altered or disfigured specimens.

This will assist law enforcement agencies in apprehending the criminal and implementation of wildlife acts and laws in a stringent manner.

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