Bear bile tourism to Vietnam hotspot Halong Bay is decreasing, as tourists are made aware that buying bile could lead to criminal charges.
The number of tour companies that organised bear farm visit for tourists in Halong Bay has dropped from six to two since 2012 according to local reports. The decline is also reflected by Animals Asia’s own monitoring suggesting bile tourists, most often from South Korea, are almost half of what they were in 2010.
The progress follows Animals Asia’s on-going campaign in the region. Its recent fourth visit to the area to raise awareness and reduce demand for illegal bear products saw Animals Asia staff and Forest Rangers handing out 12,000 leaflets in English, Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese detailing the illegality of bear bile use. Distributing the leaflets from Bai Chay Tourist Wharf, where over 300 boats bring customers to the iconic bay, enabled information to be put directly into the hands of tourists.
In addition to the leaflets, Animals Asia left flyers in 10 hotels popular with Korean visitors and on ABC buses, a major coach service for Korean tourists in the province.
As part of the campaign, banners with the text: “Bear bile extraction and trade in bear bile, bear parts and products violate the law of Vietnam and international conventions,” in Vietnamese, English, Korean and Chinese, were put up on road routes in Halong City.
The significant decrease also follows Animals Asia’s visit to South Korea in 2013 where they met with tourism leaders and appealed via the media for Koreans not to sign up to tours that included bear bile farms visits.
The area around Halong City is home to two bear farms holding a total of 138 bears. Farmers continue to exploit loopholes and take advantage of under-resourced authorities to continue their business despite its illegality. The farms are continuing to offer new attractions, even going as far as offering massages for visitors, to distract from their core trade.
However despite their determination to flout the law – the message is clearly reaching customers and numbers are dropping.
Animals Asia founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE said:
“The reports of this dwindling market are encouraging. It’s clear the message is getting across and demand is falling. Risking arrest in order to perpetuate cruelty isn’t much of a decision when the facts are spelt out. Animals Asia staff in Vietnam are doing an incredible job in ensuring this message is received and understood.”
Animals Asia Vietnam Director Tuan Bendixsen added:
“This reflects an incredible will to make progress here. To be welcomed by the local authorities and to see Forest Rangers standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Animals Asia staff is hugely inspiring. Even better still is to see the effect it is having and to see tourists turning away from bear bile. Why visit beautiful Halong Bay and spend your time at ugly bear farms risking arrest?”