Animals Asia rescues five bears from bile industry and wildlife trafficking

14 June 2022

Late last week, Animals Asia was contacted by the Forest Protection Department (FPD) in Dien Bien, Vietnam, to say they had recovered a tiny moon bear who’d been discovered wandering around a residential garden.

Our rescue team leapt into action and rushed across the country to collect the cub, who we nicknamed ‘Bamboo’, and bring her back to our sanctuary. However, once the team arrived in Dien Bien they found out the FPD had just recovered another two cubs after intercepting a wildlife trafficking operation.

Closing in on illegal wildlife trafficking

The interception and subsequent arrest of the wildlife traffickers was the result of a collaborative effort between the Dien Bien Environmental Police, the Dien Bien District Economic and Drugs Investigation and Prosecution Unit, and the Dien Bien Forest Protection Department.

They believed that Bamboo had escaped from the same trafficker they’d just arrested, and that the three cubs were siblings. 


A desperate and anxious wait

However, we were devastated to learn that we might not be able to take the two cubs back to our sanctuary with us, as they were to be used as evidence in an ongoing criminal investigation into the trafficking ring.

Heidi Quine explains what happened next: "Our Country Director, Tuan Bendixsen, began in-depth, high-level negotiations with the Environmental Police to try to secure the release of the two cubs into our care. We spent a sleepless, anxious night wondering whether we’d be leaving the next day with all three cubs, or just Bamboo.”


Heidi continues, “The next morning, after hours and hours of negotiations, we were overjoyed to hear that Tuan had successfully persuaded the police to release the second cubs: they could come home with us and their sister!”

We meet the beautiful ‘Plum’

Meanwhile, as the first rescue team celebrated this wonderful news, our second rescue team was on their way to Son La to rescue an adult moon bear.

The bear, who we named Plum as it was Son La’s plum season, had been caged as a cub and spent the next 20 years suffering repeated, painful bile extraction.


The farmer had agreed to release Plum into our care, another indication that farmers are realising that the bear bile industry is coming to an end in the country. Plum was the last bile bear in Son La. Her rescue means that another province in Vietnam is bear bile farm-free.

No time to rest…

Just as our rescue teams and the four bears were settling down after an exhausting but exhilarating few days, we got word that another bear in Phung Thuong village, near Hanoi, had been released from a bile farm.

Our rescue team rushed over to the village, located around 60km from our sanctuary, to rescue the bear. At the time of writing, he has just arrived at our sanctuary so we are still eagerly awaiting news on his condition.

Guiding moonlight

We have, however, given him a name. A simple, but symbolic gesture that indicates that he is no longer a commodity, something to be used for others’ means. He is an individual and will be treated with the respect, dignity and love he deserves and should have always received, for the rest of his life.


We have named this bear, ‘Anh Trang’, which means ‘moonbeam’ in Vietnamese. Anh Trang is the third bear to be rescued from Phung Thuong village and we hope he will be the light that guides every last bear who remains on farms here, brought home to our sanctuary.

The five bears will now begin the long process of recovering from their painful pasts, and learn to be the playful, curious, and wild bears they were always meant to be.

Read more:
Three cubs arrive safely to sanctuary
Plum rescued from years on bear bile farm