years ago this April, Jill Robinson first walked onto a bear bile farm. On that day in April 1993, Jill could have walked away, but she chose to act and do what she could. Today, you also have a choice. If everyone reading this donated just US$20, it would pay for the care of over 150 bears at our China sanctuary for a full year. Please help us celebrate 20 years of progress. Donate US$20 today (or whatever you can afford).
Largest group rescue yet for Tam Dao Rescue Centre
Right now, 19 moon bears are on their way to our Vietnam Moon Bear Rescue Centre in Tam Dao, rescued from the vicious bear bile industry and years of torture. To date, this is the largest number of bears rescued in Vietnam in one operation.
Discovered cramped in 40ft cargo containers on an illegal bile farm in the southern province of Binh Duong, near Ho Chi Minh City, this group of bears has now almost completed a gruelling, three-day road-trip to safety.
The rescue began on Monday, 18 January when the cargo containers were loaded onto trucks which, along with Animals Asia's support crew, set off north towards Hanoi. They are expected to reach their new, safe haven in Tam Dao on Thursday morning.
The bears are kept in metal cargo containers, divided into small cells.
A crane is used to hoist the containers into place on the truck beds.
“We plan to drive through the night. The trucks and our support van have two drivers each to take shifts. We want to get the bears back to the sanctuary and out of those terrible containers as quickly as possible.” said Vietnam Director, Tuan.
The owner of the bears, a Taiwanese businessman, had kept them for six to seven years in concrete cells at the Binh Duong city headquarters of his company. He moved the bears to his company's factory site on the outskirts of Binh Duong and into the cargo containers two months ago after the authorities warned him about keeping the bears in the concrete holding cells.
Animals Asia stepped in a few weeks ago when the Central Forest Protection Department (FPD) and the Binh Duong FPD asked for our help after deciding to close down the farm, which did not meet bear-keeping regulations specifying such standards as minimum cage-size and ventilation requirements.
Bare, metal cells offer no hope or comfort for their prisoners.
Each cell door is secured to ensure the bears are safe for the long journey home.
The bears display signs of stress - bar biting and pacing back and forth in their cells.
With the containers in place, the team is ready for the long trip home.
The unusual convoy sets out on its 2,000km journey.
The bears remained calm as they were loaded on to the three trucks with a hydraulic lift.
The bears were given a good breakfast and plenty of fruit and water before setting off.
Tuan said all the bears from the farm were wild-caught. “One is blind and two are missing limbs. We also believe that all of the bears arrived either as cubs or juveniles,” he said. “The containers are divided into six or seven compartments with one bear per compartment. This is the first time we’ve seen bears kept under these conditions.”
On-site at the location of the containers since last week, Tuan and the rescue team were disturbed to see the living conditions of the bears – locked in isolation in small prison-like cells, with inadequate food and water and only the cold, metal floor, often dirty and wet, to lie on.
However, the team judged that it was in the best interests of the bears to transport them back to the rescue centre and into the care of the veterinary and bear management teams as soon as possible. Since then, the containers have been secured to ensure as much comfort and safety for the bears as possible.
Animals Asia’s veterinary surgeon based at Tam Dao, Kirsty Officer, said that once the bears arrived at the sanctuary, it would take two to three full days to move them from the containers into quarantine cages. “We’ll remove the bears one-by-one, anaesthetising each one and giving him or her an initial health-check to prioritise them all for surgery or other urgent treatment,” she said.
Tuan said that the bears were last milked for their bile about a month ago and two of them are not microchipped. He said the rescue came just in time for the 19 bears. “It would have been so hot and suffocating for the bears in those containers over the summer months. I doubt they would have survived.”
This is just the first step on the bears' long road to recovery. You can follow the rescue over the next few days, as we update the rescue diary with news from the road.