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Three more safe from Vietnam bile trade

Some really good news at last! Three new utterly beautiful bears have arrived at our Vietnam sanctuary thanks to the prompt action of the Vietnamese authorities. This brings to 12 the total number of bears taken in to our new sanctuary.

About two weeks ago, we were informed that Quang Ninh Forest Protection Department (FPD) and the Quang Ninh Border Patrol Police had caught a Chinese national trying to cross the border from Vietnam into China with three bears in crush cages. The offender had no permit or papers of any kind to show the legality of the bears. The bears were confiscated and taken back to the Quang Ninh FPD compound in Ha Long Bay – about 150km from the border and about 400km from our sanctuary.

The bears were transferred into three bigger cages until we could come and rescue them. The Chinese man has refused to cooperate with the investigation and claimed he was moving the bears on behalf of someone else. At this stage the FPD does not know which farm the bears are from.

They were in reasonable condition when they were rescued – I guess the offender would have bought “good condition” bears for the long trip to China. No one knows where the bears were heading, but being quite young (2-3 years old?) they were most probably heading for a bear farm in China. The bears (two males and one female) weigh about 100kg each.

Our Vietnam Director, Tuan Bendixsen, went with the rescue team to pick up the bears on Monday. Tuan said the rescue went very well, although the trip from Quang Ninh FPD compound to Tam Dao took almost six hours because the temperature had risen to above 35 degrees C and the FPD had given us a fully enclosed truck because they were worried that the offender/bear farm owners could try to get at the bears to remove evidence before the impending court case.

The FPD even assigned two officers to accompany the bears back to Tam Dao. Because of the heat, we bought 10 1-metre slabs of ice in Ha Long Bay to keep the bears cool and we stopped every hour to hose them down and to give them watermelon.

While we don’t know for sure that these bears have been abused as “bile machines”, as Tuan said: “I can’t imagine bears on a bear farm not being farmed at all. The buyer might have asked for bile extraction to check the quality of the bile when they knocked the bears out to put in the crush cages?”

These gorgeous new residents – whom we’ve nicknamed Chica (pictured in the truck with ice), Amigo (above) and Rumbles (below with Jen) until they get their official names from their sponsors – are now settling in at our rescue centre. They all have intact canines and paws, a welcome change from the state of many of the news arrivals to our China sanctuary.

They are already enjoying their snacks of fresh fruit and nuts, their fresh green browse for making nests – and the adoring attention of the staff.

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