FOUR PAWS rescues five bears from agonising conditions in Vietnam

Former bile bears find a new home at BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh


International animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS has rescued a total five Asiatic black bears from three different bear farms, as part of its long-term campaign to end bile bear farming in Vietnam.

On March 11 and 12, FOUR PAWS succeeded in rescuing five former bile bears – Keo, Lim, Dieu, San and Khoai Lang – from the Vietnamese provinces of Binh Duong and Dong Nai. After the bears were examined, the team travelled over 1,600 kilometres in a 40-hour journey to bring the animals to their new home, the FOUR PAWS BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh.

Dr Johanna Painer, veterinarian at the Vienna University of Veterinary Medicine, accompanied the rescues and transfer: “We are happy that we could free all five bears from their cages. The first medical checks have revealed some health problems, but we are certain that we can treat them conservatively in the next few weeks at BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh.” 

Bear Keo in particular was lying depressed in her cage when the team arrived. Her medical examination showed that she must have been suffering from terrible pain.

“Keo’s teeth are in horrible condition and she suffers from severe inflammation of the liver and gall bladder. Bear San suffers from massive hair loss due to the cruel and unhygienic keeping conditions. The condition of the gall bladders of all examined bears shows that they had to endure regular bile extractions.”

Dr Johanna Painer, veterinarian

Unresolved deaths on bear farm

FOUR PAWS had originally planned to rescue seven bile bears from Dong Nai Province in southern Vietnam and bring them to the sanctuary. Tragic circumstances, however, thwarted the plan, with four bears dying within a week on the same farm under yet unknown circumstances.

FOUR PAWS is calling on the Vietnamese authorities to carry out a thorough investigation into the cause of death. It is known that bear owners have been killing their animals to capitalise on their organs. Should this be the case with the four deceased bears, FOUR PAWS demands a strict crackdown on those responsible.

Jeroen van Kernebeek, Country Director of FOUR PAWS Australia which is based in Sydney and promotes animal welfare in Australia and South East Asia, estimates that approximately 800 bears live in cramped metal cages in Vietnam.

“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.”

Jeroen van Kernebeek, FOUR PAWS Australia Country Director

Sanctuary will offer space for a total 100 bears

At the Ninh Binh sanctuary, all five rescued bears can now recover from their past suffering. Twelve other bears are already enjoying their new life in a natural environment. Once all construction work has been completed, BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh will cover 10 hectares of land and provide space for up to 100 rescued bears. Built according to modern standards, the sanctuary has its own veterinary clinic, a quarantine station, two bear houses, and four outdoor enclosures.

Since its official opening on 7 March 2019, locals and tourists from around the world are able to see how formerly abused bears are gradually regaining their natural instincts in living conditions suited to their species. In the spacious outdoor enclosures, the bears have access to ponds, trees, climbing and hiding places to pass the time. The sanctuary not only represents a new home for former bile bears, it is also designed as an educational and awareness-raising centre that will promote animal and species conservation in Vietnam.

Australians can add their names to the FOUR PAWS petition to close all bear farms in Vietnam here.

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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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