Animals Asia in mercy dash rescue as four bears die in Halong Bay

28 May 2015

Song Sot in the transport cage (1)

Animals Asia’s rescue team is in Halong Bay this morning after local authorities gave the green light to the immediate rescue of the last surviving moon bear on Halong Bay’s infamous Cau Trang bear farm.

It follows news that four more bears have died at the facility.

The further four bear deaths at the farm means just one bear remains alive since an Animals Asia inspection of the facility in November 2014 revealed 27 bears being held in appalling conditions.

The Animals Asia rescue team arrived at the Quang Ninh facility this morning and expects to return to Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre around 4pm this evening.

Animals Asia’s Vietnam Director Tuan Bendixsen said:

“We can only guess how these bears died. The authorities cannot prosecute and we cannot speculate without proof. However, what we can be very certain of is that this farmer has now been responsible for the deaths of 26 moon bears – a protected species in Vietnam. We raised the alarm with the authorities that these bears were dying in November last year. We could have taken the bears at any time and given them the treatment that they needed to survive.

“Every bear that has died since could have had the chance of a new life. Even now, with the authorities ordering their switch to a sanctuary – four bears have died in a matter of hours. The farmer has done everything he can to deny these bears a happy ending – despite the fact he has benefitted from their cruelty for many years.”

Animals Asia’s campaign to rescue the 27 bears on Halong Bay bear farms resulted in the provincial authorities giving the charity permission to rescue every captive bear in Quang Ninh province.

To date, two bears have been rescued, while Animals Asia waits for the authorities give the go-ahead to rescue missions in 17 locations around the province.

Local farmers have until the end of June to agree to the transfer with local government offering a small “reward” for giving up the bears before the deadline. The authorities have made it clear that after this time, all the bears will be confiscated regardless of whether the farmer has agreed to the transfer.

Animals Asia has no involvement in the negotiations, which are entirely between the Quang Ninh provincial authorities and the bear farm owners, but the charity has urged urgency to avoid any further bear deaths.

Animals Asia founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE said:

“It is absolutely tragic that seven months after we reported the appalling condition of the 49 bears being kept in Halong Bay, just 10 now survive across the region and 32 across the province of Quang Ninh. Since November last year we’ve been ready and willing every single day to receive these bears into our care and look after them as we do for 114 other bears at our world class bear sanctuary just a few hours drive away. Every single death being announced in Quang Ninh is utterly tragic and completely avoidable.”

Starving Song Sot enjoys watermelon on the way to VBRC (1)

On Monday 25 May, the Quang Ninh Forest Protection Department informed Animals Asia of the four recent deaths, who in turn contacted the Quang Ninh government seeking permission for an immediate transfer of the surviving bear.

Local government confirmed the transfer on Tuesday, paving the way for the rescue team to travel to Quang Ninh province on Wednesday ahead of a Thursday rescue.

Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) figures from March this year show 1,245 bears remain in captivity in Vietnam, down from 1,987 in 2014.

The figures show more than 700 bears held in captivity have died in the last year.

Bear bile farming has been illegal in Vietnam since 1995.