Manhunt Exposes Shocking Operation Where Bears Are ‘Milked’ For Their Bile

by : Lucy Connolly on : 27 Oct 2019 18:13
Bears milked for bileShutterstock

A poaching manhunt set up after mutilated bear carcasses kept appearing in an Indian state uncovered an international trafficking operation where the organs of bears were milked for their bile.

For more than five years, the carcasses – which were often missing their genitals and gall bladders – kept being discovered in Madhya Pradesh. So much so, that the state’s Forest Department set up a special task force.


The force theorised the animals’ body parts were missing because bear gall bladders are a source of bile – a fluid secreted by the liver which is used in traditional medicines across Asia, CNN reports.

bears trafficked for bileShutterstock

With the agents having a suspect in mind – a 30-year-old man who was arrested for poaching bears and tigers in 2014 – they set about searching for him after he skipped bail and slipped under the radar.

The special task force tracked down the suspect on October 19. He was living in a hut next to a highway in the state of Gujarat, and had three fake IDs on him.


After his arrest, the head of the task force’s wildlife division Ritesh Sarothiya said the man – known as Yarlen – admitted he had been a poacher for nearly a decade and had killed numerous tigers, sloth bears and other wildlife.

poacher arrested for killing bearsSpecial Task Force Madhya Pradesh Forest Department

The man would allegedly lay traps near water and then, once his prey was captured, he would beat it to death with sticks, according to Sarothiya. The poached animals were then sold to international trafficking syndicates.

Sarothiya alleged:


He killed the sloth bears and tigers to sell certain body parts that are in high demand, mainly in China and southeast Asia, such as the gall bladder and genitals.


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Yarlen, who belongs to the nomadic Pardhi tribe, is currently being investigated for several cases of poaching and trading of endangered wild animals, and is expected to be charged under violations of the Wildlife Protection Act.

Until his arrest, he had been one of India’s most wanted wildlife traffickers, with Sarothiya stating: ‘He had five different cases against him so he was definitely a big one for us’.

bear trapped in cageShutterstock

Once a bear is poached, its gall bladder is extracted and milked for bile, which is then transformed into pills, vials and creams. This trade is forbidden in most Asian countries – except in China and Japan – where domestic sales of bear bile remain legal.

The conditions in which the bears are kept in to have their bile extracted has long since been criticised, with a spokesperson from Animals Asia telling CNN ketamine is used as an anaesthetic – which means the animals are fully aware of what is happening but ‘just can’t move’.

In some cases, bears even undergo surgery to create a permanently open duct from the gall bladder to the abdomen so bile drips freely – causing infections and abscesses.

The poacher could be imprisoned for up to seven years.


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Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).

Topics: Animals, Animal Cruelty, bears, India, poaching


CNN and 1 other
  1. CNN

    Poacher manhunt exposes murky world of Indian wildlife trafficking, where bear bile is big business

  2. Animals Asia

    End Bear Bile Farming