Agent bear: Russia’s FSB enlists animals as ‘strategic resource’

Agent bear: Russia’s FSB enlists animals as ‘strategic resource’
Russian brown bears may soon become an item in the budget of Federal Security Bureau (FSB), the domestic successor to the soviet KGB, which wants to designate them a national treasure.

KGB and bears you say? It’s not exactly what one might be tempted to think. The initiative wants to place bears on a list of official “strategic goods and resources," to stop the furry forest creatures from being targeted by poachers and black market merchants.

It means that smuggling bears or musk deer, which also have a history of being targeted by fly-by-night animal-trading bandits, would be covered under Article 226.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

A draft resolution has been posted on Russia’s online regulation portal, revealing that the brown Himalayan bear and the musk deer will be awarded a title declaring them to be an important resource.

The development would make the punishment for smuggling bears and musk deer parts on par with illegally stockpiling chemical weapons and missiles. Interpol has monitored the underground bear trade, and in 2014 the agency highlighted that poaching and the demand for skins and bear bile was on the rise.

In the report, illegal bear products entering China was labelled a major concern, with smugglers found to be trying to disguise black bear cubs as puppies. Meanwhile, a trend of bear bile products originating in Russia was also observed.

Last month, Interpol released information about Operation Thunderstorm, a global crackdown on illegal wildlife trade including wild bear meat.

“By revealing how wildlife trafficking groups use the same routes as criminals involved in other crime areas - often hand in hand with tax evasion, corruption, money laundering and violent crime - Operation Thunderstorm sends a clear message to wildlife criminals that the world’s law enforcement community is homing in on them,” Interpol said in a statement.

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