BREAKING NEWS: Animals Asia to rescue eight bile farm bears in Vietnam

21 October 2015

Hong Bear Farm in Vietnam's Quang Ninh province

Animal welfare charity Animals Asia will this week start a two-day rescue of eight bears from bile farms in Quang Ninh province, Vietnam.

It follows a decree from Vietnam’s Prime Minister that the province must end bear bile farming and that Animals Asia be given the go-ahead to rescue the bears. The team will visit seven different properties on Wednesday 21 and Thursday 22 October to rescue the bears ahead of returning to Animals Asia’s sanctuary in nearby Tam Dao.

There the bears will be rehabilitated and integrated in open enclosures with 139 bears previously rescued from the bile trade.

This latest mission follows several successful rescues from Quang Ninh in recent months – so far this year Animals Asia has rescued 24 bears from Quang Ninh and 8 bears from other provinces with the support and help of Vietnam’s Forestry Protection Department and the local authorities. It’s believed that the vast majority of the bears rescued to date have suffered bile extraction. Many bear owners claim they are keeping bears merely as pets to circumnavigate the illegality of the bile trade, but often there is evidence to suggest bile extraction is still happening.

Despite it being illegal to buy or sell bile in Vietnam the trade continues, however with the numbers of caged bears dropping last year from just under 2,000 to 1,245 the market for bile products is almost certainly dropping.

The support for the rescue from the Prime Minister follows a worldwide Animals Asia campaign to release the bears held in Halong Bay. The Prime Minister responded by agreeing to make the entire province bile farm free and Animals Asia were given the green light to rescue the bears.

The original deadline for all the rescues was September but with a significant number of farmers initially refusing and with Quang Ninh authorities having to deal with serious flooding this summer, delays have occurred.

After this week’s rescue, there now remains one solitary bear in Quang Ninh, in Uong Bi District. It’s believed the bear’s owner is currently travelling. The authorities remain confident that this final bear will also be available for rescue soon.

The bear closer to be rescued, Hiep bear farm in Vietnam's Quang Ninh province

Animals Asia Vietnam Director Tuan Bendixsen said:

“This is a huge operation – eight bears on seven farms but the end is in sight. Quang Ninh is one bear away from being bile-farm free. To rescue these bears would be a result, not just for us, but for Vietnam which has a growing reputation for wanting to address its animal welfare image. Make no mistake there was a problem here. Horrendous cruelty and bears dying in large numbers.

“Our supporters helped us make the world aware of that and the authorities listened and responded. They continue to push against on-going resistance to rescue all the province’s bears. They have stood shoulder to shoulder with us in refusing to give up on the bears.

“Our motto is ‘Until the cruelty ends’ and it’s been the story of a summer and autumn of rescues from this incredible team. We’ve rescued bears in one, twos – right up to 13 in one rescue, and now eight more. One rescue was from an island off the coast. Our supporters can rest assured we’ll be back for that last bear and beyond that our stated aim is to make the entire country bile farm free."

To this end, Animals Asia recently signed an agreement with the Vietnam Traditional Medicine Association who agreed to ensure an end to all bile use by 2020, paving the way for a complete end to bile farming.

Animals Asia has rescued more than 550 bears from the bear bile trade in China and Vietnam. In China, where bear bile use remains legal, more than 10,000 caged bears remain facing daily bile extractions.

The bear on left to be rescued, Ngoc bear farm in Vietnam's Quang Ninh province