Gall bladder and liver lesions in bears farmed for bile production in China

Wendi D Roe, M Bando, W Leadbeater, B Gartrell, H Bacon, Panayiotis Loukopoulos

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Bear bile has been used in traditional Chinese medicine since around 650 AD, and commercial bear farming has been practiced in China since 1984, predominantly using Asiatic black bears (Ursus thibetanus) (moon bears). Bile extraction techniques have been modified over the past 30 years, mostly to facilitate the extraction process and improve the quality of bile produced. International public opinion on the welfare implications of bile farming has put increasing pressure on the Chinese government to make changes to farming practice, and in 2000 the Animals Asia Foundation was licenced to remove 500 black bears from farms and house them at a rescue facility at Chengdu, Sichuan Province. Rescued bears undergo a cholecystectomy after arrival as part of the rehabilitation process, and all bears that die in the facility undergo a full post mortem. An extensive collection of processed and stained slides is held at the facility, but can't be sent out of the country due to CITES restrictions. These slides are being gradually evaluated by several visiting pathologists, in an effort to build up a database of lesions present and to investigate associations between lesions and extraction techniques. This presentation describes preliminary findings from evaluation of livers and gall bladders from 188 bears. Liver tumours were extremely common, and almost all gall bladders had moderate to severe cholecystitis. For gall bladders, 130/188 (69%) had single or multiple masses at surgery or post mortem, while 21/188 (11 %) bears had malignant gall bladder tumours. Other common findings included foreign body granulomas from suture material, fragments of catheter found within the gall bladder, ulcerative lesions, choleliths and bile peritonitis. Only three gall bladders were classified as 'normal': these were all from bears that had never had bile extractions.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventJoint Wildlife Society & Wildlife Disease Association Conference - Harewood Golf Club, Christchurch, New Zealand
Duration: 25 Nov 201630 Nov 2016 (Conference program)


ConferenceJoint Wildlife Society & Wildlife Disease Association Conference
Country/TerritoryNew Zealand
Internet address


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