International animal protection organisation FOUR PAWS has brought the first Asian black bears to its new BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh in northeastern Vietnam.
Among the three animals first rescued was bear Hai Chan, who before the rescue mission had led a sad existence as a so-called 'bile bear'. In an agonising procedure, her bile, which is considered valuable for use in traditional Chinese medicine, was regularly extracted. Although this practice has been officially banned in Vietnam since 1992, there are still around 400 farms housing an estimated 1,300 bears in total.
The past ten years have left their mark on former bile bear Hai Chan, who suffers from stress disorders, enlarged adrenal glands and two missing front paws. In collaboration with the local government, FOUR PAWS finally put an end to the suffering of this Vietnamese bear.
"Hai Chan spent most of her life on a farm in a tiny metal cage in a filthy and poorly ventilated room. Not only were the keeping conditions miserable, but also the lack of nutrition and the painful bile extraction procedure have taken a huge toll on the bear. We also assume that her paws were amputated and used to produce bear paw wine. Finally, her owner realised that Hai Chan deserves a better life."
Kieran Harkin, FOUR PAWS Head of International Wild Animals Campaigns
The animal welfare organisation brought Hai Chan, together with two other bears named Thai Van and Thai Giang – rescued from another farm – to the newly constructed BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh. There, the first three residents of the newly opened sanctuary can expect comprehensive veterinary care and a life without torment.
After several weeks in quarantine during which the bears will be further examined, Thai Van, Thai Giang and Hai Chan will be released into their outdoor enclosures.
New start in BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh
After almost a year of hard work, the first construction phase for the new FOUR PAWS sanctuary in northeastern Vietnam was recently completed. The area with four large outdoor enclosures for over 40 bears currently covers four hectares. On the property, there are also two bear houses with indoor boxes, a quarantine and a veterinary station, a bear kitchen and an administrative building. When completed, BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh will provide a species-appropriate home for up to 100 rescued bears.
The bear bile business
Bear bile has been used as a remedy in traditional Chinese medicine for several thousand years and is still a sought-after product in many Asian countries. Although the sale and consumption of bear bile is banned in Vietnam, an estimated 1,300 bears are still suffering on around 400 farms. Due to the regular, brutal extraction of bile and the lack of veterinary care, the bears suffer from various diseases such as infections, abscesses, blood poisoning and liver cancer. The extremely poor keeping conditions on the bear farms also lead to serious behavioural disorders such as self-mutilation.
Joint mission against animal cruelty
In 2005, the government launched a campaign to phase out bear farming in Vietnam through attrition. All captive bears were registered and microchipped as part of an effort to ensure that no new bears entered farms. The bears, which remained the property of the state, were to be looked after by the farmers until their transfer to a local sanctuary or natural death. Bear farmers were also required to sign a declaration to never again extract bile. In 2017 the Vietnamese government also issued a statement confirming its intent to end bear farming and begin rescuing bears.
In addition to support work and conducting its own rescue missions, FOUR PAWS has also launched an international campaign. Animal friends worldwide can sign a petition to encourage the Vietnamese government to do whatever it takes to put an end to bear farming: saddestbears.com/Vietnam. Over 580,000 signatures have already been collected.
FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them.
Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. FOUR PAWS’ sustainable campaigns and projects focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, animals in fashion, farm animals, and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, orangutans and elephants – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones.
With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in 12 countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org.au