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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 October 2005, 13:25 GMT 14:25 UK
Bears eat keeper who took their bile
workers remove a bear rescued from a bile farm
A kilo of bear bile can fetch up to $1,000 in the Chinese market
A Chinese man has reportedly been killed and eaten by six bears in Shulan, Jilin province.

Han Shigen earned a living by extracting bile from the gall bladders of his captive live bears, according to the Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

He was attacked on Monday morning while cleaning the animals' cage, Xinhua said, quoting the Beijing News.

Xinhua said the animals were so enraged that two hours passed before it was deemed safe enough to remove his body.

Many parts of the bear, including the brain and spinal cord, have long been used in traditional Chinese medicine.

The most coveted part is the bile within the gall bladder, which can often be more expensive that the equivalent weight of narcotics.

Bear bile can fetch an estimated $1,000 per kilo in Asian markets.

The bile is extracted in an excruciatingly painful process which involves slicing into the animal's flesh and "milking" the substance with a tube.

The bile is then used for everything from hair shampoo to wine, as well as medicinal treatments for various intestinal and cardiac-related complaints.

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