FOUR PAWS ends bile bear keeping in Vietnam'S Ninh Binh province with THE rescue of bears May and Binh Yen

Suffering is finally over for two Vietnamese bile bears who lived most of their lives in agony on a bear farm


Today, international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS rescued the two Asiatic black bears from their tiny metal cages and brought them to BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh, built by the organisation in 2017.

May and Binh Yen were the last bile bears on a farm in Ninh Binh province. With their rescue, the animal welfare organisation was able to end the keeping of bile bears in the entire province. Unfortunately, in other provinces of Vietnam around 1,000 bears are still suffering on bear farms, and humans continue to illegally extract their bile using cruel methods.

May and Binh Yen are currently in the quarantine station at BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh where they will receive medical care from FOUR PAWS veterinarians and animal carers. A lifetime of abuse as bile bears have left physical scars on them.

“The ultrasound showed Binh Yen’s gallbladder and liver have changed significantly. A scar at the entrance of the gallbladder clearly indicates abuse as a bile bear. Sadly, her condition is critical.” 

Dr Johanna Painer, veterinarian

Over the coming weeks, May and Binh Yen will receive intensive medical care from the FOUR PAWS veterinarians. The team is hoping that after quarantine and a period of familiarisation with the bear house, both bears will be able to move into their large, newly built outdoor enclosure in about five weeks.

The suffering of bile bears in Vietnam

Vietnam is one of the few countries in Asia that has taken legal action against the keeping of bile bears. However, it is imperative that existing laws are implemented consistently. 

“We are glad that we were able to end the keeping of bile bears in Ninh Binh with the support of the local authorities. Unfortunately, in many other provinces of Vietnam bile extraction is still happening. We have 38 free spots at our BEAR SANCTUARY and we are ready to welcome this many suffering bears to a happy life free of pain as soon as possible.”

Kieran Harkin, FOUR PAWS Head of International Wild Animal Campaigns

The bear bile business is flourishing despite alternatives

Bear bile has been used as a remedy for eye infections, bruises, indigestion and other conditions in traditional Chinese medicine for several thousand years.

Despite the fact that better herbal and synthetic alternatives are available, bear bile is still a sought-after product in many Asian countries. The possession, sale and consumption of bear bile in Vietnam has been banned since 2005, however illegal trade in bear bile still takes place on Vietnam’s streets, in traditional Chinese medicine shops, on bile bear farms as well as in the Internet.

Joint mission against animal cruelty

In 2005, the Vietnamese government launched a campaign to phase out bear farming. All captive bears were registered and microchipped as part of an effort to ensure that no new bears entered the farms.

Bile bears, who remain 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 on its intent to end bear farming and begin rescuing bears. FOUR PAWS is supporting the efforts of the government with the launch of an international campaign and by conducting rescue missions.  

FOUR PAWS urges people to sign its petition to encourage the Vietnamese government to do whatever it takes to put an end to bear farming:

FOUR PAWS aims to hand over the signatures of one million people to the Vietnamese government. More than 750,000 signatures have already been collected.

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FOUR PAWS press contact

Elise Burgess

Elise Burgess

Head of Communications

M: 0423 873 382

FOUR PAWS Australia
GPO Box 2845 

Main Phone: 1800 454 228

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. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, animals in fashion, farm animals, and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones.

With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA, and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions.

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