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).
Animals Asia wins release of bears from Vietnam bile farm after 3-year campaign
4 July 2010
Animals Asia Foundation has secured the release of five endangered moon bears from an illegal bile farm in Vietnam's scenic Ha Long Bay after three years of campaigning. The five are among 24 bears that have been the subject of an international campaign spearheaded by Animals Asia and supported by 13 foreign embassies and other animal welfare and conservation groups after the farm holding them was raided by police.
Vietnam’s Environmental Police and the local Ha Long Police raided the Viet Thai Bear Farm at Dai Yen, outside Ha Long City, Quang Ninh Province on 2 October last year and caught employees extracting and selling bear bile “red-handed” to Korean tourists. Five workers and two South Koreans, who had been visiting the farm on an organised tour, were detained for questioning. Bile extraction equipment and more than 200 vials containing freshly extracted bear bile were confiscated in the raid. The 24 bears in question had no proof of origin and no microchips as required by law.
The raid followed more than two years of lobbying by Animals Asia and other NGOs for the release of a total of 80 bears being held illegally on farms in the Ha Long Bay area, a popular tourist destination. More than 7,000 Animals Asia supporters from around the globe wrote to the Vietnamese government calling for the bears to be confiscated and 13 foreign ambassadors in Hanoi (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and USA) also signed appeals to the authorities.
The five rescued bears – four male and one female – arrived at Animals Asia’s Moon Bear Rescue Centre in Tam Dao National Park on Thursday night (1 July) after a five-hour road-trip. Animals Asia Founder and CEO Jill Robinson praised the Central Forest Protection Department (FPD) and Environmental Police for finally cutting through the red tape to confiscate the bears. “They also took no chances at the farm in dealing with resistance from the farmer. More than 30 forestry officials were assigned to the confiscation, which shows they meant business,” Ms Robinson said.
“I think our campaign proves that quiet persistence and patience pays off in the end. We hope to see the rest of the illegal bears at Ha Long Bay transferred into our care soon and will continue talking with the Central FPD local police to tackle any remaining obstacles. Right now though, our top priority is to settle in our five new residents and assess the damage inflicted on their broken bodies on the farms. Some of the bears display signs of malnutrition, while others are physically and psychologically compromised, with one missing a front limb and others with head scars, broken teeth and severely cracked paws. All will need their damaged gall bladders removed.”
Animals Asia’s Vietnam Director Tuan Bendixsen said it was Animals Asia investigators in early 2007 who first alerted the authorities to the illegal activities at farms in the Ha Long Bay area. Undercover film footage and photos that proved bile was still being extracted from bears and sold to tourists was passed over to the government. This prompted an earlier raid on farms in the area, with 80 bears being identified as illegal (not microchipped, which meant they had probably been poached from the wild.)
Up to now, just one bear had been transferred to Animals Asia’s sanctuary because of bureaucratic red tape and lack of political will. In April 2008, Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister – in direct contravention of Vietnamese law – decided not to confiscate the remaining 79 bears.
Animals Asia and other non-governmental organisations – including Education for Nature, Vietnam (ENV), Wildlife at Risk (WAR), Free the Bears (FTB) and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) – formed the Vietnam NGO Bear Taskforce to lobby the government to overturn the Prime Minister’s decision.
Bear bile farming had been illegal in Vietnam since 1992, but over 4,000 bears remained trapped on farms. Bile extraction is extremely painful for the bears. In Vietnam, they are drugged – usually with ketamine – restrained with ropes and have their abdomens repeatedly jabbed with unsterilised four-inch needles until the gall bladder is found. The bile is then extracted with a pump.
Mr Bendixsen said it was well known that bile extraction continued and that bears were still being poached from the wild. “Sadly a lack of resources has meant that up until now, enforcement of the laws has been virtually non-existent. But just last week, we received two tiny cubs “Xin Xin” and “Chien Thang” from an illegal farm in Dien Bien Province, so it seems the authorities might be stepping up their efforts and they should be commended for that.”
In 2005, Animals Asia signed an agreement with the Vietnamese government to rescue 200 bears and care for them at our sanctuary. To date, we have taken in 62 bears. Through a similar agreement with the Chinese authorities, we have rescued 276 bears in China and closed 43 bile farms.