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).
Wednesday 19 May: Nghe An Province lies in central Vietnam, near the Lao border and about an eight-hour drive from the Moon Bear Rescue Centre in Tam Dao National Park.
Animals Asia was contacted recently by the province’s Forest Protection Department (FPD) to advise that they had found a non-micro-chipped bear on a farm near Con Cuong Town and to ask that we take her into our care.
Last in a row of caged bears, trapped in a dark corner of a dank shed.
While it is not illegal to keep bears in Vietnam as long as they are not used as part of the wildlife trade in any way, including draining bile from their bodies, all bears kept in captivity must be micro-chipped.
As this was a forced confiscation and not a surrender, the FPD contacted local government officials in advance for help – more especially since two years ago Animals Asia staff were chased off a bear farm in the same province by a mob.
Because of the sensitivity of this rescue, our External Affairs Officer, Dr The, was the only Animals Asia team member in attendance. The FPD was accompanied by 15 local officials intent on showing that they meant business, and in the end, the farm owner obliged and the rescue went ahead without incident.
The rescue went well, with the FPD anaesthetizing the bear (nicknamed “Maddie”) and Dr The – an experienced veterinary surgeon – overseeing her removal and transfer to the transport cage and on to the truck. The trip back was uneventful, with the team travelling mostly during the late afternoon/ evening and early morning in order to avoid the 40C degrees heat during the greater part of the day. Dr The took care of Maddie along the way making sure she was comfortable and well-watered and fed.
With the soaring temperatures and long trip, it was not surprising that Maddie was quite hot and stressed when she arrived at the rescue centre on Friday 21 May. However, she was quickly removed from the truck, cooled down and calmed down with drinks, shakes, fruit and food, and bear managers Pernille and Charlie report that by Sunday afternoon she had settled down a lot.
Maddie will soon have her full health-check, but Vet Kirsty reports that for now, she appears to be in reasonable health and looks to be about six years old.
Caroline and Kirsty assess Maddie's physical appearance.
As usual, the farm owner denied that they ever extract bile from the bears caged on his premises and in fact, insisted that they are only keeping them as “pets” for a friend. The other bears were not confiscated because they are micro-chipped and, unless the government officials see evidence of bile extraction themselves, they are powerless to act to confiscate the bears.
While Maddie settles into her new home, with many wonderful, carefree years ahead of her, we will continue to work towards the end of bear farming to ensure a better future for her farm friends who for now, remain trapped in their miserable existence.