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Terrible animal suffering in Vietnam: Bile bears die shortly before they are rescued

FOUR PAWS calls for consequences for bear farmers


For years they have suffered terribly as bile bears on a Vietnamese farm in Xuan Loc district (Dong Nai Province), and their rescue was so close. But shortly before international animal protection organisation FOUR PAWS was able to rescue four bears and bring them to its BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh, the animals died.


The owner of the bears had agreed to hand over the animals to FOUR PAWS voluntarily.  However, when FOUR PAWS staff visited his farm two weeks ago to investigate the animals' fitness for transport in the presence of local authorities for the upcoming rescue, they found one female bear was already dead. Her gall bladder and liver had been removed. These organs attract a high dollar value on the black market. Within the same week, the three other bears also died.


All four bears were going to be rescued in the next two weeks.


Although the Vietnamese government has repeatedly announced its intention to close bile bear farms, an estimated 800 bears on some 250 bear farms are still suffering in appalling conditions; they are malnourished, dehydrated, neglected and at risk of being killed by their owners, all because the illegal sale of organs such as the gall bladder or liver brings in vast sums of money very quickly.


In the study "The challenges and conservation implications of bear bile farming in Vietnam", the organisation Free The Bears interviewed 66 bear farmers. Half of those interviewed said that if their bear farm was closed, they would not be afraid to kill the animals.


Bears die in cages despite offer for appropriate accommodation

Ioana Dungler, Director of the Wild Animals Department at FOUR PAWS: “Despite applicable laws, terrible incidents, such as the one in Xuan Loc district, unfortunately often remain without consequences for the bear farmers. We call on the government to act and put an immediate end to the killing of bears.


“The bears are dying in their cages, although there would be appropriate housing for them. We therefore appeal to the Vietnamese government to press ahead with the closure of bear farms.”


On 7 March, FOUR PAWS will officially open the BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh in Vietnam to the public. Located in Ninh Binh Province, the new bear sanctuary will cover 10 hectares of land and will allow a total of 100 abused former bile bears to live peacefully and species-appropriate lives in natural enclosures.


Currently, 10 former bile bears are already living there, as well as two bear cubs saved from the illegal wildlife trade. The bear sanctuary, which was built according to modern keeping standards, with its own veterinary clinic, two bear houses, a quarantine station and four outdoor enclosures, currently has 32 free places. By the end of the year, over 70 animals could have permanent species-appropriate homes at the sanctuary.


“Approximately 800 bears live in cramped metal cages in Vietnam,” said Jeroen van Kernebeek, Country Director of FOUR PAWS Australia, which is based in Sydney and advocates for animal protection in Australia and South East Asia.

“They suffer, and some still have their bile cruelly extracted. The Vietnamese government has made bear bile extraction illegal and has taken commendable steps over the last decade to reduce bear farming. But more urgent action is needed to save the bears and end bear farming in Vietnam. That is why we are asking caring Australians to help us lobby the Vietnamese government to officially close all bear farms now.”


People can add their names to FOUR PAWS petition here.


Bear bile business flourishing despite alternatives

Bear bile has been considered a remedy in traditional Chinese medicine for several thousand years and is used to treat eye diseases, haematomas, digestive disorders and other ailments.  Although its effect is doubted even by renowned experts of traditional Chinese medicine and there are much better herbal and synthetic alternatives, it is still a sought-after product in many Asian countries today.


Although the possession, sale and consumption of bear bile has been banned in Vietnam since 2005, animal husbandry is still permitted. Many bears continue to be illegally bled and the illegal trade in bear bile continues to flourish on Vietnam's streets, in TCM shops, on bile bear farms and on the internet.