27 October 2022 – Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS successfully rescued an Asiatic black bear from illegal private keeping in Son La province in Vietnam. While his former owner stated that Soi was 17 years old, most likely out of fear of legal repercussions because he purchased Soi illegally, the FOUR PAWS team made a surprising discovery during the health check: Soi is only around two and a half years old. After the team had to cut open the tiny cage he was kept in, Soi arrived safely in the FOUR PAWS BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh. Now he can finally live a bear-appropriate life amongst conspecifics.
More than half of the remaining 257 bears on bear farms in Vietnam are kept in Hanoi, which remains inactive in closing bear farms, unlike the majority of the other provinces. FOUR PAWS prompts the Hanoi authorities to start combating bear crime in their jurisdiction and finally end bear farming.
After Soi’s former owner agreed to hand the bear over to the authorities, they asked FOUR PAWS to take him into its care. A FOUR PAWS team travelled to Son La province to collect Soi and bring him to his new home at BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh in the north of the country.
A first health check before the journey revealed that Soi’s health condition is good compared to other bears rescued from bear farms. It further revealed that Soi is not 17 years old as it was reported to FOUR PAWS but only two and a half. A comprehensive veterinary examination at the sanctuary will further determine his health status and future needs. The first health check did not show signs that Soi was abused for bile extraction but kept as a pet as stated by his former owner.
“Soi is lean and generally in good condition, except for some dental issues. He has one fractured canine with a fistula and signs of bar biting. We will investigate suspected cardiac abnormalities in his health check next week at BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh. The whole action went very smoothy,” says veterinarian Mark Gölkel, who leads the Animal and Facility Management at BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh.
“Soi is lean and generally in good condition, except for some dental issues. He has one fractured canine with a fistula and signs of bar biting. We will investigate suspected cardiac abnormalities in his health check next week at BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh. The whole action went very smoothy.”
Veterinarian Mark Gölkel, who leads the Animal and Facility Management at BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh
Hanoi’s notorious reputation as unprogressive bear farming hotspot
Since 2005, the number of bears kept on bear farms has decreased from 4,300 to 257 by end of September 2022. 42 out of 63 provinces are now bear farming-free. Son La province was already declared free of bear farms in 2021 but occasionally bears like Soi are discovered that are not registered with the authorities and kept illegally. Nevertheless, progress is ongoing all across the country, with one exception: Capitol Hanoi remains the number one bear farming hotspot, with 140 bears kept in cruel conditions on 25 farms, and little to no efforts taken to end bear farming.
“The bears still kept on bear farms in Vietnam suffer from cruel keeping conditions and bile extraction, which is illegal, but still done. They are locked up in metal cages with barely any room to turn, lined up in dark sheds without any sunlight. Bears need to roam around, climb, dig, and swim. The remaining bears in Vietnam still have a chance at a better life. If Hanoi keeps undermining the country’s commendable progress, their future looks grim,” says Magdalena Scherk-Trettin, who coordinates FOUR PAWS bear rescue and advocacy projects.
Recent studies show that bear bile consumers in Vietnam are willing to switch to non-animal-based products for the treatment of ailments, including herbal alternatives and Western medicine.
BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh: A species-appropriate home for rescued bears
FOUR PAWS has been working with local partners since 2017 to rescue as many bears as possible from their sad fate. With its bear sanctuary in Ninh Binh, FOUR PAWS is supporting the Vietnamese government to contribute to an end of bear farming in Vietnam and provide a species-appropriate home for rescued bears. BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh is not only a safe home for former bile bears and bears that are victims of the illegal wildlife trade, but also, an awareness and education centre for wildlife conservation in Vietnam. With Soi it currently houses 50 Asiatic black bears.
Asiatic black bears are native to Vietnam and on the brink of local extinction because of poaching and the illegal wildlife trade where demand for their parts and derivatives remains.
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. www.four-paws.org.au