The World Society for the Protection of Animals is developing a breakthrough detection device to help customs officials clamp down on the growing illegal trade in bear parts such as gall bladders and bear bile.
Kate Sanders, a consultant to the WSPA, came up with the idea for the hand-held kit, which was presented to delegates at a meeting of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species. Several countries have shown an interest in running trials.
WSPA campaigns officer David Eastham said: "The new kit will be a powerful weapon in the fight against the trade in bear products."
Bear parts are used as ingredients in products such as Chinese medicines.
Until now, the only way to test a product for bear contents has been to send it to a lab, which is costly and time-consuming.
Bear farming is practised in parts of south-east Asia, while in China more than 9,000 bears are kept in cramped conditions, where they are subjected to an agonising daily bile extraction.