PICTURES: After years of bile farm abuse – bears Angelica and Cinnamon are now pain free
18 March 2016
Caged, used and abused and living in pain for so many years - moon bears Angelica and Cinnamon have had their damaged gall bladders removed by Animals Asia vets in Vietnam.
A total of 33 bears were rescued from bear bile farms in Quang Ninh in Vietnam in 2015 following a successful campaign by Animals Asia to release bears in the Halong Bay area. Angelica and Cinnamon were two of eight bears kept in tiny cages on one bile farm. As sick, unhealthy bears they were the first to be handed over by the bile farmer. Further pressure saw the remaining bears being rescued at the second attempt later that year.
All 33 bears are now being cared for by Animals Asia at its sanctuary in Tam Dao.
To date, eight of the bears have had their gall bladders removed with one more scheduled for the coming months. The decision to carry out the procedure followed scans showing severe damage as a result of repeated bile extraction for use in traditional medicine.
In China, the vast majority of bears rescued by Animals Asia undergo a cholecystectomy (full removal of their gall bladders) as a result of more frequent, more evasive bile extraction. In Vietnam, bears are assessed on a case-by-case basis and the operation isn’t carried out unless absolutely necessary.
However, a scan showed that Angelica was suffering from gall stones with chronic scarring also suggesting multiple bile extractions had been carried out over a long period of time.
Cinnamon also suffered from gall stones as well as dental issues. She is scheduled for dentistry work at a later date. It’s common that bears arriving from bile farms suffer badly with toothache due to bad diet, chewing on bars and poor care.
The two bears were the first to be given up by their former “owner” who clearly reasoned he’d hand over the sickest bears first while attempting to hang on to the rest. In the end he had to give up all his bears, although it took a return trip by Animals Asia to rescue them.
Senior Vet Mandala Hunter-Ishikawa said:
“The way these bears were being cared for by the farmer, they wouldn’t have lasted much longer. They were so thin, it’s clear that the farmer thought handing them over was no major loss. I guess he’d presumed they were close to death. It’s incredible to see them now having reached a healthy weight and being strong enough to deal with this surgery.
“Free from pain, these two are out there playing together and having the fun they deserve. Previously, they were caged nearby but had never been able to physically interact. Now they’re best friends and their friendship will help their rehabilitation.”
Animals Asia founder Jill Robinson added:
“Even their names are a reminder that they have suffered for nothing. Angelica and cinnamon are just two of the herbal options that can replace bear bile in traditional medicine. Working with the Vietnamese Traditional Medicine Association, last year we were able to draw a line and say this ends by 2020. They’ve agreed with that and we’re getting increasing support from the Vietnamese government. We are now so close to ending bear bile farming in Vietnam. For Angelica and Cinnamon we have ended their pain, and their happiness inspires us to continue to fight on.”
Animals Asia has rescued almost 600 bears from bile farms in China and Vietnam and continues to care for almost 400 bears. Around 1,200 bears are still caged by the bile industry in Vietnam where bear bile farming is now illegal. In China - where it continues to be legal - there remain over 10,000 caged bears.