Rise of The Phoenix
February 25, 1994 – his 50th birthday. He was not celebrating it. The half decade of his “Beautiful Life” has ended in a heart-breaking, soul crushing tragedy. Life seemed to him to have slammed shut, and that door did not seem to have a key. And even if it did, he had no wish to re-open and walk back through it. But what of the future. It looked like a foggy, endless void.
“I wish when I first came to Canada at age 20 that I knew what I know now. 30 years. Personally, I would be much the wiser. Professionally, by now, what could I not have accomplished? But look at me now, like a fallen house of cards, a spent line of dominoes with the last one ending in the trash. I may as well…”
I didn’t let him finish where he was heading, and asked him something he did not expect, “What do you think is your natural life expectancy?”
“You mean if I didn’t do away with myself first?” he finished it anyway. “I don’t know. 80? 85 max. I don’t really care.”
“Well then, you know what you know now, and, with the 30 years ahead of you, what great mission can you not accomplish?”
It took him more than a year to get the ball rolling. But once it got started, it seemed unstoppable. Witness the follow newspaper articles, among others, which attest to his drive and determination.
November 22, 1995, Wednesday
The Vancouver Courier
by Kerry Gold
Hong Kong environmentalist says many Chinese immigrants too urbanized to care about conservation
Kerrisdale tree wins temporary reprieve
China-born environmentalist Anthony Marr temporarily saved a tree in Kerrisdale from the chainsaw Monday.
It’s only the beginning of a campaign to help solve problems that are the result of a serious clash between cultures, he said.
“For the time being, the tree is safe, and I have notified residents,” Marr said after a protest that chased away tree fellers who’d begun to remove the lower boughs of a giant cedar.
When a few Kerrisdale residents realized another tree was about to come down Monday, they rushed to obstruct the fellers. Marr was notified by a protester friend, and within minutes he arrived at the site and joined in. He says he later talked in Chinese with the absentee property owner, who agreed to leave the tall cedar tree in the front yard of 6355 Vine St. temporarily standing.
“After talking to me for awhile, he promised not to cut down the tree for the time being, and will try to sell his property with the tree intact.”
However, if he moves into the house himself, he’ll probably cut the tree down, Marr added.
The temporary save isn’t enough for Kerrisdale residents so angry with the rash of tree-cutting in their neighbourhood they’ve formed a committee to deal with the problem. The 40-strong Tree Protection Committee is a part of the Kerrisdale Residents’ Association.
They are mostly long-time Kerrisdale residents fed up with the cutting of trees that are often generations old and irreplaceable. They say that they’re frustrated by city bylaws that don’t have the teeth to prevent destruction of the ecosystem and the natural beauty of the neighbourhood known for its profusion of towering trees. They also feel that the tree-cutting is motivated by profit, and is insensitive to the betterment of the community.
When the tree fellers arrived at the Vine street property, word spread like wildfire among the residents, and they quickly assembled into protest.
“We’re upset and we feel the legislation has to change,” said Irmela Topf, a 24-year Kerrisdale resident who moved to Vancouver Europe because of the scenery. “We neighbours want to keep our trees. This is what makes Vancouver so special.”
Scenes like the one on Vine Street have become commonplace the last few years. While new housing is on the rise to meet the needs of new Chinese immigrants, residents are growing increasingly angry over the removal of old-growth trees.
The private property tree bylaw requires any tree removed to be replaced (“by a twig”, a resident say) when the owner applies for a development permit. But residents say the bylaw is pointless, since it would take another 150 years to re-establish the beauty of that tree again.
“I have never seen this level of urban-tree cutting in any other province or city in the world,” said Barbra Johnston, who sat against the tree and refused to leave, causing the fellers to go away.
“We’re upset and we feel the legislation has to change. This city has to take a stand. We as private citizens can voice our feelings, but we have to have someone who will back us up.”
Enter Marr. He moved to Vancouver 30 years ago, delved into Canadian culture and developed a keen interest in wildlife. As a Hong Kong native, he believes he can act as a go-between for the two cultures.
He’s only recently begun his campaign to liaise between Canadian-born locals and Chinese immigrants. He calls his work to save endangered species the BET’R (pronounced “better”, for Bear, Elephant, Tiger & Rhino) Campaign. While his focus is mainly the illegal trade in bear parts, he says he’ll get involved in any environmental issue.
“I’m a Chinese person dealing with a Chinese-caused problem; that is the uniqueness of my program. Caucasian people find it daunting because of the possibility of alleged racism, so none of their campaigns hit the nail on the head hard enough to have it sink in. I’m volunteering myself as a Chinese activist for non-Chinese to voice the justified opinion.”
Marr is a writer with a physics degree. He’s been involved with the environmental movement since the 1970s, he says. He aims to spread environmental awareness to the Chinese community through school lectures and the media, because wildlife conservation is generally not a concern for most people from Hong Kong, he says.
“Generally, people from Hong Kong have been so concrete-jungle-conditioned that they don’t have the same kind of attachment to trees as Canadian people do. Wildlife awareness is not high among the community. Wild space is considered potential development sites, and basically the attitude is very anthropocentric. If a Hong Kong business person sees an opportunity to build a profitable golf course on a piece of marshland, they would do it without a second thought. And wild animals are still for utility, and wilderness is to be conquered. Sounds familiar?”
Marr confesses that before he came to Canada, he had the same way of thinking. “Unlike many immigrants from Asia, though, personal circumstances have led me to seek full integrated into Canadian society. I’ve acquired a lot of Canadian values, and I’ve come to appreciate wildlife and wilderness for their own sake, as many Canadians do.”
December 2, 1995, Saturday
The Vancouver Sun, p. B2
by Nicholas Read
Animal parts for sale, and it’s legal
At Hang Hing Herbal Medicines at the corner of Pender and Gore, they openly sell medicinal products made of snake gall, tiger bone seal penis and bear bile. Some of the packages have a picture of a tiger on the front, and the snake, tiger, seal and bear ingredients are listed on the back.
However, on one set of the packages, which says “Tiger bone” in Chinese characters, an English message has been affixed. It says, “Excluding any part of tiger”.
It’s an obvious contradiction, but z store clerk confirms it. No, he says, there is no snake gall, tiger bone or bear bile in any of the products for sale, even though they are listed clearly on the packages.
Anthony Marr isn’t surprised. He says Vancouver’s Asian residents have become sensitive to criticism that medicines made from exotic, endangered animals, as well as local bears, are available in their pharmacies. So, it’s not surprising that they make such claims.
Marr, a longtime environmentalist, is of Chinese descent himself. He was born in China, brought up in Hong Kong, and moved to Vancouver when he was 21. So he is still fluent in Chinese, and can read easily all the package labels that English-only-speaking Canadians can’t.
Thus he finds in another pharmacy an arthritis medicine made of tiger bone. In the aphrodisiac case – labeled “fierce male” in Chinese – he finds packages containing three different kinds of animal penises – seal, bull and dog.
In another pharmacy, there are numerous kinds of deer antlers for sale, even antelope horns.
However, none of these products is illegal to sell, unless the bear bile is from a Canadian bear. Because even though it is against international law to import into Canada parts of animals as critically endangered as the tiger, once they have been smuggled in, there is no internal Canadian law to render them illegal to sell.
In 1992, Ottawa passed a law called the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA), which, if enacted, would make it illegal to sell tiger products. But after three years of bureaucratic wrangling, it’s still not law, which means selling tiger products is still okay.
At least legally. Ethically is another matter, says Marr, which is why he is launching a campaign to persuade Vancouver’s Chinese residents to shun the use of exotic animal parts, including tiger bone and bear gall, in traditional Chinese medicine.
With help from the conservation group, Bear Watch, he plans to place ads in local Chinese newspapers and on television stations advising Chinese Canadians about the environmental concerns other Canadians have about protecting endangered species.
It is not going to be easy. “The Chinese awareness is really not there,” Marr says. “Maybe the only person you saw in Chinatown today who knows or cares about the plight of the tiger was me.”
But education is the answer, he insists. Because even if the Canadian government were to enact WAPPRIITA and impose stiff fines for poaching and trafficking, as long as a demand exists, so will a supply.
Until, that is, the animals from which the parts come disappear. And with as few as 4,500 wild tigers left in the world, that become an increasingly real possibility all the time.
December 6, 1995, Wed.
Ming Pao Daily News
by Eric Chan
(translated from Chinese)
Anthony Marr says Chinese must help save endangered species
Chinese Canadian environmentalist Anthony Marr has started a campaign to save endangered and threatened species from the Chinese animal parts consumers.
Marr’s BET’R (bear, elephant, tiger & rhino) campaign was started under his own steam in the summer of 1995. . . . He feels that Caucasian environmentalists cannot say what needs to be said to and about the Chinese community without being branded a racist. He believes that this, when dealt with by an environmentalist of Chinese extraction, would be the most effective.
Marr’s activities currently concentrates on public education. So far, he has received invitations from three Vancouver schools (Eric Hamber, Winston Churchill and Maple Grove) whose Chinese student populations range from 70% to 90%. To maximize public impact, these events will be covered by BCTV, CBC and UTV. . . .
In November, Marr met with directors Paul George and Joe Foy of the 25,000-members-strong Western Canada Wilderness Committee, which agreed to embrace the BET’R Campaign, with Marr being retained as BET’R Campaign Director. Among the first things WCWC will do for BET’R will be to publish 80,000-100,000 copies of a 4-page paper on bear conservation. . . .
Marr plans to tour the Chinatowns of North America, including Toronto, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, to propagate his conservation message. . . . If all go according to plan, he plans to go straight to Asia after 1997.
Marr was born near Canton, China, and brought up in Hong Kong. Since his arrival in Canada in 1965, he spent many summers working in the bush deep in the BC interior. It was then he bonded with wilderness and wildlife. He has been involved in BC’s environmental movement for almost two decades.
December 18, 1995, Mon.
by Wendy Chow
Chinese environmentalist campaigning to change centuries-old tradition
Longtime environmentalist Anthony Marr is on a crusade with a dual goal. He hopes to put an end to the slaughter of endangered or threatened animals used in the preparation of Oriental medicine. By doing so, the Hong Kong raised Marr, 51, says he hopes to elevate the reputation of his fellow Chinese.
“Some people who call in to the Chinese radio talk shows say that I want to discredit Chinese culture. Quite on the contrary. We’ve been acquiring a bad reputation for years even though some Chinese people may not know it. When you get down to the root cause of poaching, it’s the demand by Chinese, Japanese and Korean people for the parts,” says Marr.
“When I was a kid I benefited a great deal from Chinese traditional medicine given to me by my grannies and my mom. I have a lot of reverence for Chinese medicine. But I do want to rid it of environmentally unsound and superstition-based ingredients.”
“I also want to act as a spokesperson to the Western community as a Chinese person,” says Marr. “In doing so, I show by deed that some Chinese people are willing to stand up and correct the wrongs in their native culture.” . . .
“The main consumers of these products at this point are the so called Little Dragons like South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore. the Great Dragon, China, has not yet fully awakened as a consuming force. But in a decade or so, when a wealthy middle class arises, the demand from China will skyrocket, and poaching will reach astronomical proportions. If you think what’s happening right now is bad, wait and see. There is not much time to waste.” . . .
Perhaps because Marr is a Chinese person willing to speak out against what is a predominantly Chinese-caused problem, he has had plenty of media attention. He has brought local and national television cameras right into Chinatown, and been interviewed by newspapers and radio talk shows in both languages.
The public reaction to Marr’s campaign? One Maple Grove school teacher said, “I may not have been conscious of it, but for years I have been waiting for someone like Anthony to step forward.”
January 8, 1996, Monday
Victoria Times Colonist
by Malcolm Curtis
Tiger, tiger, put it right . . .
Weak laws ‘to blame’ for elixirs and pills which contains parts of endangered species
There are only about 4,000 wild tigers left in the world, but traditional Chinese medicines containing tissue and bones of tigers are openly sold in Victoria’s Chinatown.
Other elixirs and pills, using parts of endangered species, continue to be sold across the country because of weak provincial and federal laws, says a Chinese-Canadian environmentalist committed to stamp out the practice.
Anthony Marr, born in China, raised in Hong Kong, but a BC resident for 30 years, is lobbying to change traditional Chinese medicine in this country, so that it meets environmentally sound principles.
“If major endangered species of the world – bear, elephant, tiger and rhino, among others – become extinct as a result of Chinese demand for their body parts, I would consider that a very serious crime against nature,” Marr said in an interview.
“I would like to wipe out that demand to save the species, and save the Chinese reputation while I’m at it.”
Marr, 52, is a campaigner for the Vancouver-based, 25,000-members-strong Western Canada Wilderness Committee to halt the sale of exotic animal parts. That includes bear gall bladders taken from poached Grizzly and Black bears in BC and illicitly sold to customers in Asia.
Marr produced half a dozen packages from an attaché case of examples of medicines sold by Chinatown apothecaries in Vancouver made from tiger bones and bear galls.
A survey of 20 apothecaries in Vancouver by the Washington-DC-based Investigative Network showed 13 sold such medicines. At Victoria’s Fung Hing Hong Co. Chinese Herbs, 614 Fisgard Street, $6.75 packages of tiger bone plaster from China were openly displayed on sale Thursday.
With tigers disappearing at the rate of one a day in India and two a day worldwide, “it just blows your mind to see this sort of thing being allowed in Canada,” said Joe Foy of the WCWC.
“Some forms of Chinese healing believe that powerful animals should make powerful medicine, and that their organs can be used to cure their corresponding human body parts,” said Marr. Wild animal penises, for example, are believed to have aphrodisiac properties.
Through a quirk of law, it is illegal to import such animal parts into Canada, but it is okay to sell them once they’ve been smuggled into the country.
Born near Canton, Marr was raised in a Hong Kong family that used traditional Chinese medicines to cure his childhood ailments. “I still respects the traditional of herbal medicines, which was developed by trial and error,” said Marr, “but the use of animals parts, however, developed mostly along lines of superstition, is another matter.” . . .
A report published in November 1995 by Humane Society International says that global profits from the illegal global trade of endangered species were estimated by Interpol at $6 billion US annually.
The report says that in addition to the 40,000 bears legally killed in North America, 40,000 to 80,000 were poached. Demand for bear gall bladders and bear paws was the driving force in the illegal hunt, the report concludes. . . .
WCWC’s Joe Foy noted that North America is one of the last havens for bears since they have become extinct or seriously endangered in other continents. While Canadian bears are not yet endangered, the threat from the demand for animal parts is serious, he said. . . .
January 21, 1996
The Vancouver Courier
by Kerry Gold
Chinese activist fearless
Drive to end cruelty to animals began at age 10
In the low-ceilinged maze that is the Western Canada Wilderness Committee office, a search for Anthony Marr locates him tucked into a corner desk with his laptop computer and posters of bears, elephants, tigers and rhinos.
Marr, a young-looking 52, has been a busy activist the last three months. A fixture at the WCWC offices since the Committee took on his BET’R (Bear, Elephant, Tiger & Rhino) Campaign in November last year, he’s also been campaigning to save city trees from the chainsaw.
WCWC founder Paul George says the Committee has budgeted $100,000 for the campaign locally and in Asia, and to produce printed materials that will further the cause. . . .
Marr’s campaign to save the environment has garnered him attention from the media, schools, politicians, other environmentalists, and the general public. He’s been on TV news half a dozen times. Numerous articles have been written about him in various newspapers and magazines since his BET’R Campaign started last year.
Environmentalist are hardly in short supply, so why does everybody want to talk with Anthony Marr?
He guesses it’s got something to do with the fact that he’s a Chinese Canadian who’s unafraid to criticize the Chinese community for a lack of environmental awareness. He also isn’t afraid to criticize other cultures for failing to pick up the cause. In these culturally hypersensitive times, Marr could be the fearless spokesman to bridge the cultural divide.
Marr agrees. “My impression is that people tend to give a sigh of relief, and say ‘Finally, there is somebody we can trust to speak our sentiment, and take on the task without raising racism as a red herring.”
On his outreach into the Chinese community, however, he hasn’t always encountered a warm reception. He estimates that three quarters of the incoming calls on Chinese language radio talk shows are critical of what he is doing. He’s been advised by other Chinese to not condemn the use of animal parts outright, or criticize Asian demand.
Marr’s response? “I’ve got to be accountable first and foremost to myself. I’m not going to compromise myself by worrying about offending certain people. You can’t please everybody.”
Marr was born near Canton in 1944. When the Communists took over five years later, the Marr family fled to Hong Kong as refugees. He moved to Canada at 21 and attended the University of Manitoba for one year before coming to attend UBC. “I passed over Vancouver on my way to Winnipeg and was enchanted by its beauty. It was love at first sight.”
When he was as young as 10, he knew he wanted to end cruelty inflicted on animals worldwide. He remembers seeing a snake being skinned alive in a Southeast Asian meat market, and films of dogs in a Vietnamese market with their front legs tied behind their backs.
Today, he’s fighting such atrocities as wild animals being poached to supply superstitious medicinal demands . . . As well, he is fighting global atrocities such as live bears in Seoul being lowered in cages onto hot coal until their feet are cooked to satisfy certain Koreans’ fetish to have super-fresh bear paws at some $2,000 US per serving.
The demand for tiger bone, tiger penis, rhino horn, bear gall and bear paw have generated enough poaching to have driven the tiger, all five species of rhino, and five out of eight species of bear to the brink of extinction. Now, the Grizzly and Black bears in BC are facing the immense poaching pressure displaced from Asia. . . .
To put the problem in perspective, the number of tigers left in the world, about 4,500, would fill only about a quarter of an NHL hockey stadium, he says. Meanwhile, the number of bears killed in Canada last year could fill three stadiums, one dead bear per seat.
And while Marr is looking to his own culture to help remedy the growing problem, all cultures, he says, must do some soul searching. “Every culture has a hand in causing the problem, so every culture has a part to play in the solution.”
February 10, 1996, Saturday
The Vancouver Sun
by Elizabeth Aird
Getting tough on tree-cutters
They’re sending help to a tree near you. Bob MacCallum, a retired West Side builder, and Anthony Marr, a Chinese-Canadian environmentalist, want to stop the wholesale killing of trees around town and mend race relations in the bargain. Together, they are the Urban Forest Preservation Association.
Anthony Marr, who works for the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, says it’s a tragedy that trees are being destroyed in the name of Feng Shui, the Chinese belief that trees standing in front of a house can block good fortune from entering the house.
Marr thinks Feng Shui is utter nonsense. “Some of the Feng Shui ‘masters’ call it science. I have a science degree and I totally disagree. Just like the so-called Creation Science in Western culture, I wouldn’t even grace it with the term ‘pseudo-science’. It’s just plain superstition.”
Fully half of the Chinese-Canadians population – the more educated half – doesn’t believe in Feng Shui, says Marr. He has tart answers for those who remain convinced that cutting down trees will bring good fortune. “If anything, cutting down a tree brings bad fortune into the house in the form of neighbourhood discontent.”
Marr also thinks saving trees as a Chinese Canadian will save Chinese Canadians from the bad rap they’re getting. “Whether the trees are being cut down by Chinese themselves or by developers building on spec, it’s giving the Chinese people a bad name. If tree are protected by law, then the cutting will stop, and so will the blame.”
MacCallum started the tree campaign after his 13-year-old daughter was devastated when a massive, magnificent dogwood disappeared from their street in MacKenzie Heights.
In the three months since, MacCallum says he’s found overwhelming public support for getting tough about tree-cutting. He surveyed 100 West Side property owners by phone, and was told by 86 of them that they were willing to relinquish the right to cut down trees without good reason on their own property. They also said they’d pay $2 a year for enforcing a tough by-law. Only 6 of the people surveyed said they want to defend their property rights above all else. The remaining 8 weren’t interested in the issue.
MacCullum has also talked to 24 neighbourhood groups, and says they want a tough by-law.
There’s no question that Vancouver’s existing bylaw isn’t saving trees. It decrees only that some trees have to be replaced, and then only when new development is going in. There are no penalties for chopping down even an irreplaceable tree, so property owners are free to chop as they please.
Marr and MacCullum want a bylaw that would allow builders and home-owners to take out only those trees that sit where a house or, say a swimming pool needs to go. Fines for cutting down trees unnecessarily would be set according to the value assigned the tree by the International Society of Arboriculture.
“If the aborist says that a tree had an ISA of 70,000 buck, bingo, that’s the fine,” MacCullum says. On top of that, the city would replace the destroyed tree and tack the bill onto the owner’s property taxes. “I want big fines not as punishment, but as a deterrent.”
Ignorance would be no defence. Anyone wanting to fell a big tree would have to call professionals, who in turn would be required to get a cutting permit.
The model of a better bylaw comes from Saanich. MacCallum describes its essence. “Thou shalt not chop down a large tree, and there are definitions of a large tree.”
Marr and MacCallum have met city councilors individually to discuss the issue.
City council has told the city’s senior landscape architect, Michael von Hausen, to take a look at new ways to save trees, but politicians may be unwilling to act too tough on a touchy issue. The city could make people get a permit to cut down a tree, for instance, but von Hausen calls a permit process “burdensome”. He says penalties are being considered, but that “we would much rather create an incentive program, a heritage tree conservation program.”
In an election year, talk of “educating” people and giving them incentives to save trees sounds suspiciously like avoidance. “If people believe that cutting down a tree will let $50,000’s worth of good fortune to come into the house, they are not going to pay attention to a $500 tax incentive,” Marr said.
“City council realizes something’s got to be done,” said MacCallum. “I think when all is said and done, (they) will come to the conclusion that the only way to address the problem is to change the bylaw.”
Anthony Marr says he’ll be happy to take on cultural traditionalists who value Feng Shui over trees. He’d like to publicly debate Joseph Ip, the prominent Feng Shui master here. He’s committed to steering the tree debate out of the realm of racism. He attacks the Chinese tradition, but, he says, “as a Chinese person myself.”
February 14, 1996, Wednesday
The Kitsilano News
by Mary Frances Hill
Tree cutting angers Kits group
City to review tree bylaw
A line of old ornamental trees standing on a lot between Bayswater and Balaclava may be gone if residents don’t pressure the city to save them. The West Kitsilano Residents’ Association will hold a meeting next Tuesday . . .
Meanwhile, the Western Canada Wilderness Committee is pressing the city for greater protection for existing trees. Anthony Marr is pressuring the city to force property owners to force property owners to hold a permit or license before they fell a tree, and impose penalties . . .
The city has asked its senior landscape architect, Michael von Hausen to review the effectiveness of the bylaw in light of strong community protests over the destruction of old trees in West Side neighbourhoods.
“We’re looking at the options. We’re trying to find a balance between reasonable removal of trees and trees that don’t have to be removed,” says von Hausen. “This has personal implications, and there is no easy, straight forwards answer.”
Marr says though about 90% of residents polled recently said they would pay more taxes for enforcement costs, he still fears city councilors may drag their feet over the repercussions of potential costs and opposition.
“If you don’t address the issue now, social discord will cost a lot more in the long run,” says Marr. . . .
Minister of the Environment
Government of Canada
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1A 0H3
March 6, 1996
Mr. Anthony Marr
Western Canada Wilderness Committee
20 Water Street
Vancouver, BC V6B 1A4
Dear Mr. Marr:
Thank you for your letter of January 15 . . . regarding the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA). . . .
. . . . Its capacity to deter this trade with its proclamation this spring. Under the Act, poachers and smugglers will be liable to penalties of up to $150,000 and 5 years’ imprisonment, Corporations are liable to fines of up to $300,000. The maximum fine can be doubled for a second offence. . . .
Hon. Sergio Marchi
April 4, 1996, Thur.
Ms. Neil Sumner
4398 West 8th Ave.
Dear Mr. Marr:
I have seen you on TV and have read about you in our local newspapers and I want to tell you what a very import job you are doing for bears and generally, our environment. I was impressed to see you giving talks at schools to try to convince a young generation of Asian and non-Asian Canadians to understand the importance of preservation of our forests, or a single tree in our neighbourhood, and of course, the creatures that live in our forests and countryside. You have a large task and, in my opinion, are going about it the right way to make a difference.
I have despaired to think our bear population would go the way of the tigers and rhinos and other bear species in Asia. You are the first important step in BC that will make a difference. It’s a heavy burden to put upon you, but please keep up the excellent work and find a way to overcome the barriers that have come your way.
April 9, 1996, Tuesday
Ming Pao Daily News
by Eric Chan
(translated from Chinese)
Federal wildlife trade law soon in force
. . . . Earlier this year, Vancouver environmentalist Anthony Marr, of Western Canada Wilderness Committee, wrote the then federal justice minister Alan Rock and the Ministry of the Environment requesting an as-soon-as-possible enactment of WAPPRIITA . . . .
On March 6, the new federal environment minister Sergio Marchi wrote back to Marr, stating that WAPPRIITA will be put in force this spring . . . .
Environmental expert David Ip, who once headed the Chinese community group SUCCESS, considers the new law a new round of assault against traditional Chinese medicine in Canada. . . .
April 10, 1996, Wed.
Poaching surges for bear parts
The Black bears that roam Canada’s vast backwoods have a new enemy these days, half a world away.
In the pharmacies and restaurants of cities like Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo, customers flush with money from East Asia’s economic boom are paying premium prices for bear paw soup and medicines made of bear’s gall bladder.
Until recently, there were enough bears in China, Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia to meet the demand. Now, those populations are dwindling, and traffickers in bear parts are turning their attention to North America – the bear family’s last bastion.
Across Canada, wildlife conservation experts are sounding the alarm as poaching of bears increases. Behind many of the killings are underworld groups, operating out of Vancouver’s fast-growing Asian community, which finds trafficking in bear parts to be as lucrative, and less risky, than drugs.
“This is the first time a North American animal has been targeted by interests largely outside our continent,” said Michael O’Sullivan, executive director of the Humane Society of Canada. “So we have to do something now.”
For the moment, Canada’s Black bear population remains healthy – an estimated 300,000 to 400,000. But conservationists calculate that up to 40,000 are being poached each year, on top of the 40,000 being legally hunted – a rate too high to be offset by births. . . .
Conservationists are urging authorities to act before a crisis arrives. They want tougher penalties for poaching and trafficking and more resources devoted to wildlife protection. The handful of traffickers convicted recently generally receive fines that could be recouped with the sale of a few gall bladders.
“The middleman can easily make a ten-fold profit in this business,” said Mark Hayden, a conservation officer with the British Columbia Environment Ministry. “The penalties (a maximum fine of CDN $10,000 (US $7,500) are enough only to deter small-time poachers. We need penalties to deter the hard core.” . . .
One of the difficulties fighting the poachers and traffickers in Canada is that regulations are a matter for each province to decide. Only British Columbia and Manitoba have banned both the sale and Possession of bear parts; in Quebec and Nova Scotia, both sale and possession are legal.
Conservation groups say that without a uniform ban across Canada, the trade in bear parts will be extremely difficult to combat, especially since there is a legal bear hunt in Canada. Wildlife experts estimate that for every bear killed legally, one or two are killed illegally. About 20,000 to 25,000 bears are killed legally by hunters per year in Canada.
In addition to seeking tougher enforcement and penalties, conservation groups and wildlife authorities are trying to convince the Chinese community in Canada that using and trading bear parts should stop.
One Chinese-Canadian taking a leading role in combating the trade is Anthony Marr, a Hong Kong native who works with the Vancouver-based Western Canada Wilderness Committee.
One of his tactics is to address Asian immigrant school-children in the Vancouver area, where about one-fourth of the 1.6 million people are from Asia. He hopes that the children will help change the attitudes of their parents and that in the long run a new outlook in Vancouver could start a ripple effect to other Asian communities.
“With trophy hunters unwilling to relent, and poachers charging full steam ahead, it’s wishful thinking we can hold these species steady,” Marr said. “But if we can buy 10 years of time, hopefully the culture can shed some of these old ways that have become environmentally unsound.”
Marr says he has dual motivations – to protect the animals and to bolster the reputation of his own Chinese community.
“If the Chinese really want to be modern, on par with the West, we have to do a lot of soul searching,” he said. “If we carry on the way we have been, and drive major species to extinction, we’ll really be spat upon by the rest of the world.”
Marr shows a visitor boxes of pills purchased at shops not far from his office containing bear bile, tiger bone and rhinoceros skin.
“The Chinatown businessmen wouldn’t change their ways for humanitarian or conservation reasons – only if you change the law,” he said.
Unlike rhino horn or tiger bone, which has mythical reputations as wonder drugs, bear bile have proven medicinal value. It contains a substance called urso-deoxy-cholic acid (UDCA), which can be chemically synthesized. In fact, Western medicine uses upwards of 100 tons of synthetic UDCA each year. However, profit margins are much higher for authentic bear gall products.
“If you present to a traditionalist a bottle of synthetic UDCA and a real bear gall bladder, he would take the real gall every time, even though it may be a thousand times more expensive,: Marr said. “It’s a mystique as well as a medicine.”
April 12, 1995, Fri.
Sing Tao Daily News
(translated from Chinese)
Government expands protected Grizzly Bear habitat and raises poaching penalty
The BC Minister of Environment, Lands and Parks Moe Sihota announced yesterday at the Vancouver Aquarium that 103 hectares of prime Grizzly bear habitat has been added to the Tweedsmuir Provincial Park near Bella Coola, towards greater protection of the Grizzly bear.
Sihota announces also that the maximum penalties for Grizzly poaching or trafficking in Grizzly parts has been raised from $10,000 to $25,000 and/or 6 months in prison.
The “problem bears” were also addressed. The minister suggested raising walls or fences around garbage dumps, establishing new garbage management bylaws and strengthening public education so as to alleviate human-bear conflict.
The BC government will also establish a $30,000 fund for bear research, and participate in the Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy Stakeholders’ Meeting at Richmond Inn.
As of this fall, Grizzly hunting will be restricted. The open season will be closed and hunting permits will be by lottery only. Grizzly hunting will be completely banned in the Okanagans and the Southern Selkirks.
Sihota says that the BC government is committed to protect the Grizzly bear, to prevent it from becoming another endangered species.
But wildlife protection activist and Western Canada Wilderness Committee campaigner Anthony Marr says, “The new 103 hectare of Grizzly habitat protected is a postage stamp compared to the amount of known Grizzly habitat clear-cut-logged every year, where no Grizzly bear inventories have never been done.”
He further says, “The new penalty is still too lenient to be effective, when the profits in bear gall trafficking are in the million dollar range.”
“The government voluntarily curtailing Grizzly hunting, while laudable, is in itself an acknowledgment that BC’s Grizzly bears is under siege,” he adds.
He points out that BC’s Grizzly bear population is loosely estimated to be as low as 4,000 by some independent biologists, and as high as 13,000 by the BC government. Over the last ten years, an average of about 320 Grizzlies were legally hunted per year, plus about 50-80 killed by conservation officers, and an unknown number were poached, estimated by international experts to be at least a similar number as those legally killed. “The Grizzly bear, being the slowest reproducing large mammal in North America, simply cannot sustain this kind of onslaught. Of the 8 species of bears in the world today, five have already been hunted to the brink of extinction, including the Asiatic Black bear that used to be the main source of gall bladders. If this trend continues, the Grizzly bear will be next, and this trend is most definitely continuing,” says Marr.
The above should be enough to show that I have chosen a reasonably good avatar, wouldn’t you say?
I am Raminothna
The Fortunate and the Called Upon
at your service
Anthony Marr, Founder and President
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Global Anti-Hunting Coalition (GAHC)