China’s COVID-19 cure recipe threatens Northeast’s bears, rhinos

According to a National Geographic report, China has recommended using “Tan Re Qing” injection that contains bear bile to treat critical COVID-19 cases.
For representational purposes
For representational purposes

GUWAHATI: As world economies crash due to coronavirus, China’s cure recipe threatens another kind of “bear” market, particularly in Northeast India.

According to a report published in the National Geographic, China has recommended using “Tan Re Qing” to treat critical COVID-19 cases. Tan Re Qing is an injection that contains bear bile.

Wildlife in the Northeast has often fallen victim to Chinese ideas of aphrodisiac qualities of rhino horn. There could be a fresh demand of bear bile in China to cook up a new recipe to deal with coronavirus.

On March 4, a set of treatments, both traditional and Western, was prescribed by China’s highest health body National Health Commission. In traditional Chinese medicines, the bile of Asiatic black bears and brown bears has been in use for centuries.

The bear bile contains a high level of ursodeoxycholic acid or ursodiol that helps dissolve gallstones and treat liver diseases. Ursodeoxycholic acid is an epimer of chenodeoxycholic acid. It is a mammalian bile acid found first in the bear.

According to the National Geographic report, another traditional medicine prescribed is a pill “Angong Niuhuang Wan”. It contains rhino horn and is usually used to treat fever.

The Chinese decision has set the alarm bell ringing in Northeast, particularly rhino-famed Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, which is home to Asiatic black bears. There has never been a census of the black bears in Arunachal but their population is surmised to be above 10,000.

The state’s forest department felt the Chinese decision would encourage poachers.

“It will definitely encourage the poachers. We have alerted our Field Directors and Divisional Forest Officers (Wildlife). They have been asked to take all necessary measures to thwart poaching,” Arunachal’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), G Kumar, told this newspaper.

Wildlife veterinarian Dr. Jahan Ahmed too felt the Chinese decision would have an impact in Arunachal. He was, however, not sure of its possible level.

“There are a lot of protected areas of the Asian black bears in Arunachal but they are also found in the rest of the state,” Dr Jahan, who worked with Wildlife Trust of India in Arunachal, said.

He said hunting of the animal has gone down rapidly since 2010 although it has not stopped. He said the number of bear cubs they rescued has gone down in recent years.

In Assam, the worries are over the rhinos in the national parks. Kaziranga National Park Director P Sivakumar said there had always been a threat on the rhinos of the park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Another senior forest official said, “They (poachers) do poaching whenever there is an opportunity. Poaching is basically demand-driven. If the demand is high then people will take the risks.”

Well-known elephant expert Kaushik Barua said, “Poachers have no religion. The entire country is reeling under a crisis. At the same time, we can’t let our guard down. Our front line staffs, along with park managers, need to be alert and vigilant to thwart any poaching intent.”

After killing a rhino, the poachers will smuggle the horn via Nagaland and Manipur into Myanmar. From there, it is smuggled into China and various South-East Asian countries. A horn could fetch from Rs 3 crore to Rs 3.5 crore in the international black market. The poachers include some who come from Nagaland and Manipur. Some militants are also involved in poaching, the Assam Police said.

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The New Indian Express