Bear paws and gall bladders seized during searches of smugglers in 2015-2017 in Siberia and Far East. Photo: The Siberian Times

25 July 2018 (The Siberian Times) – The brown bears are one of Russia’s great symbols but they are under great threat, according to the FSB, the Federal Security Service.

The agency is calling for the bears to be labelled a strategically important resource and given far greater protection under the law.

Between 2015 and 2017, numbers fell from 225,000 to 143,000, according to Georgy Avagumyan, a representative of the Prosecutor General's office which has also demanded Red Book protection for the species.

A new law proposes increasing punishments to 10 years in jail for poaching or smuggling bear parts for individuals and 12 years for a gang.

Fines would reach $15,800.

The FSB proposals would also apply to Himalayan - or black bears - and musk deer.

This follows an upsurge in poaching and black market smuggling.

Bear paws are particularly appreciated in Asia where they are used as delicacies or in Oriental medicine including as a potency cure.

The General Prosecutor's office cited Rosprirodnadzor - the federal agency for supervision of use of natural resources - stating that: “During  2016 and 2017, the customs in TransBaikal region, Primorsky region, Amur region and the Jewish autonomous region confiscated 189 bear paws … 54 claws, and over two kilograms of dried bile”.

At the end of 2017, the FSB in TransBaikal region detained a local who had 468 bear paws and 37 elk heads in his car. […]

Some sources dispute the statistics saying brown bears are being decimated.

The Ministry of Nature claimed bear numbers actually increased despite poaching from 203,600 to 245,100. […]

The WWF say it is unnecessary to include brown bears in the Red Book “because observations conducted in recent years did not show worrying changes” in numbers of the predators.  [more]

FSB demands protection for brown bears after 36% reduction in numbers in 2 years caused by ‘poachers’

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