Bear numbers fall on Vietnam's bile farms

08 January 2015

Bears languish on a bear bile farm in Vietnam's Quang Ninh province, 2014 (4)

The number of bears suffering on Vietnamese bear bile farms has officially fallen below 2,000 for the first time.

Official records began in 2005, when bear bile farming was made illegal and the 4,239 bears held in captivity were registered and microchipped.

Since 2012, the accepted figure has been around 2,400, yet in the past month, the number dropped rapidly to just 1,987.

Animals Asia's Vietnam Director, Tuan Bendixsen said:

"The plummeting numbers are a sure sign that we are approaching the end game for bear bile farming in Vietnam. It's likely that they will be revised again shortly."

Animals Asia and FPD staff raise awareness side by side

With the bears having been registered almost a decade ago in 2005, many are naturally dying of old age and not being replaced. The news that numbers are dropping demonstrates that awareness campaigns against the use of bear bile are working.

Tuan Bendixsen said:

"The majority of the bears would have been more than 12 years old when microchipping was carried out in 2005.

"The average lifespan of a bear in the wild is around 30 years, but in captivity in unsanitary conditions, being fed an unsuitable diet, potentially suffering bile extraction and receiving no vet care – it will usually be much less."

Bile extraction at a bear bile farm, Quangninh, Vietnam, 2011

However, there is also concern that as demand for bile drops the bears are becoming a financial burden for farmers. While many bears will die, the suspicion remains that others will be slaughtered for meat or use in traditional medicine.

Animals Asia founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE said:

"The falling numbers are, on balance, good news – and show that our campaigns against the use of bear bile are working. Sadly, this is also a reminder of the horror of these farms and of bears dying in unspeakable conditions. This is what the end of bear bile farming looks like. To clean up after this horrific industry is no simple task and requires vast resources. We are holding our nerve and asking our supporters to do the same."

Animals Asia and government officials show their mutual support