Black-Market Bear Paw Trade Ruining Once-Proud Siberian Hunting Culture

From this story in the New York Times:
It was a routine arrest, warranting only a brief mention in the local newspaper, Amur Pravda. Customs agents, suspicious of a woman's bulky clothing, discovered she had tape wrapped around her torso. Removing it, they found the contraband: several large, furry bear paws. Closed for decades, the border between Russia and China has been creaking open in recent years, allowing more trade and travel but also clearing the way for a peculiar cross-border criminal enterprise in animal parts for Chinese medicine and cooking. _"It is very widespread just now," Aleksei L. Vaisman, a senior coordinator for Traffic Europe-Russia, a group sponsored by WWF that monitors trade in wild animals, said of the illicit trade in animal parts in the Far East. Not only bear paws but also bear gallbladders -- highly valued for their medicinal and aphrodisiac qualities -- frogs, tiger bones, deer musk and the genitals of spotted deer are smuggled daily into China. But it is bear paws , a ritual dish for the Chinese, that are the most common commodities in this underground market, Mr. Vaisman said. He estimated that thousands were smuggled each year.

The paws come from bears killed legally by hunters and also by poachers. But because any export of paws is illegal, the entire trade is banned, Yuri N. Privalov, the minister of natural resources for the Amur region, said in an interview. He conceded that the illicit trade was thriving all the same. Efforts to stanch the traffic run up against the powerful lure of quick money or, experts say, a man's need to slake an alcoholic thirst -- though seemingly only in a Siberian village would this seem an easy way to get a drink. "A guy has nothing to do in a village," explained Oleg V. Lezin, the owner of a taxidermist shop in Blagoveschensk. "He takes a dog and tracks down a bear in the forest, kills it and chops off the paws. He can sell those paws for 1,500 rubles a kilogram. Then he comes into town and gets something to drink, and he's all right until the next bear." Those 1,500 rubles would be worth about $50. The paw trade has damaged hunting traditions with deep roots in Siberia, the taxidermist said, turning a hallowed male winter ritual into a mercantile exercise. Traditionally, Russian bear hunters would find a den burrowed into the roots of a cedar tree, gingerly approach and take a position on the opposite side of the tree from the opening. Then they would make a clamor, or throw in a burning plastic bag. When the bear scrambled out, snorting and angry, the hunters would lean around the tree and shoot it.

But now, he said, many Russians simply hunt at night from trucks equipped with spotlights._

Reaction? And how long do you think it'll take for American bear paws to start appearing in Chinese kitchens?