BEAR RESCUE: Young moon bear rescued from Vietnam bile farming hotspot with just 12 hours’ notice

14 April 2021

Late on Sunday 11 April 2021 the team at the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre were just settling down for the night when they received an urgent phone call from the Forest Protection Department (FPD) our government partners who are working with us to bring an end to the bear bile industry in the country. Our contacts in the FPD told the team that a small male bear was about to be rescued from Phung Thuong, a notorious bear farming hotspot where only one bear had been rescued from to date.

The team had just 12 hours to prepare for the new arrival. They dropped everything to get ready. Usually our rescue team would go on site to rescue a bear but due to the sensitive nature of this particular hard-to-reach location the government’s Forest Protection Department acted quickly and brought the bear directly to our sanctuary.

Support our efforts to reach all of the 'Nowhere Bears' trapped in difficult to reach areas, be a shining light for bears hidden in the shadows:

The team on the ground chose to call the bear Lam, meaning ‘Forest’ in Vietnamese, in recognition of the habitat this bear had been cruelly deprived of. Now Lam is starting a new life surrounded by the beautiful forest of Tam Dao National Park 60km north of Hanoi.

Moon bear Bubu who lives in the Little Toy Bear House next to the bear hospital and unloading area was the self-appointed welcoming committee for new arrival Lam. Bubu was very curious and was keen to get a good sniff of the new bear on the block as Lam was unloaded from the transport truck.

Lam is the 223rd bear to be rescued to our Vietnam sanctuary, he’s around 100kg in weight and is estimated to be between 8-10 years old. On arrival the team anaesthetised Lam which gave the vet team the opportunity to perform a quick health check similar to one a cat or dog might receive at the vet. This revealed that, apart from a broken tooth (which was swiftly removed) and some early signs of hypertension, Lam is a healthy bear, especially when you consider the toll of confinement on a bile farm can cause.

Lam will now progress through a specially designed 30 day quarantine period. His time in this temporary area is vital for his safety and the protection of the other 184 bears resident at our sanctuary. This time will guarantee him the best start in his new life, free from fear of bile extraction, confinement and exploitation. During this time our specialist team will make sure he’s fit and healthy enough, both physically and psychologically, to make the most of this new start in life.

Will you help reach and rescue more 'Nowhere Bears' and bring them to new lives of play, enrichment and love?

Vietnam Bear and Vet Team Director Heidi Quine commented:

“He’s been released from his cage for the first time, and his life has just taken the most incredible turn for the better, it’s changed forever. This is what we do best, we are ready at a moment’s notice. We have to be because it’s what we need to do to get every last bear free. Sometimes we get no notice at all, like today, sometimes we have to drop everything to go and get them, but it’s what we need to do for these ‘Nowhere Bears’. Lam’s not a Nowhere Bear anymore, he’s a Somebody and he’s going to be loved for the rest of his life.”

Heidi added:

“As we’re building a picture of Lam’s health condition it’s quickly becoming clear what a great job our government partners the Forest Protection Department have done. Although his paperwork suggests he’s upwards of 19 years of age, he appears by all accounts to be a much younger bear based on the condition of his teeth, his skin and his limbs. It was our partners in the FPD who identified that Lam was being held illegally on a farm here in Vietnam.”

Across Vietnam right now there are hundreds of ‘Nowhere Bears’. Bears that are stuck in dark, dank, forgotten places. Will you make sure that we’re always ready for them? Always ready to rescue them, give them a name, a future and a life.

Following Lam’s 30 days of quarantine our team will make sure that he is well enough to be moved out to one of our bear houses for eventual integration with our established bear groups. Bear Team Manager Amanda is managing his rehabilitation process and in quarantine he’s going to get the best of everything: of course the best veterinary care but also world-class husbandry, a tailored enrichment programme to help him build his muscles and to exercise his mind, put simply he will be reintroduced to the idea that he can just be a bear again.

Read more:

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Meet the fresh-faced vets set to be Vietnam's leading lights of animal welfare

One bear closer to ending bear bile farming in Vietnam