BREAKING: Animals Asia’s Spice of Life rescue brings four bears from circus to sanctuary

16 June 2021

In a move that reflects the changing attitudes in Vietnam towards the use of wild animals in entertainment, Hanoi Central Circus has voluntarily given up their remaining four performing bears to Animals Asia’s care.

This marks the end of their performing bear shows and a huge step towards ending all wild animal performances at the circus, and across the country. 

Sugar and Spice welcome their old friends

This is the second time Animals Asia has rescued bears from Hanoi Central Circus. In 2019 we campaigned for the release of two female cubs who had been captured illegally before being included in the circus’ performances.

When they arrived at our sanctuary, we named them Sugar and Spice because they were so sweet and brought so much joy to the sanctuary.

The freedom to just be bears

The four bears arrived at our sanctuary in Tam Dao on the morning of Tuesday 15 June. Our expert team of vets and bear carers were there to greet them and take them for their preliminary health checks. 

“For the first time in years these four beautiful bears will have access to wide, open spaces and feel lush, fresh grass beneath their paws.” Heidi Quine, Bear and Vet Team Director at our Vietnam sanctuary said.

“They will enjoy the freedom to decide what they do and when. They will be able to express natural behaviours like climbing, foraging for food, digging in the dirt and playing with their new friends. Never again will they be forced to wear a muzzle or perform tricks for entertainment.”

The bears will also enjoy a variety of fresh foods tailored to their specific needs and tastes, and experience a whole new world of toys and enrichment items such as hammocks, hessian sacks and pools, to keep them entertained.


A cultural shift in Vietnam 

Animals Asia has been campaigning for an end to wild animal performances in Asia since early 2014.

In 2017 we published a report on the negative psychological and physical effects of performing on wild animals. This prompted the Vietnam Ministry of Culture, the government body responsible for entertainment, to instruct circuses to stop using wild animals in their shows. 

Since then, 15 circuses have stopped using wild animals altogether and many more have are phasing out their use of wild species. Although two venues still use bears, with things moving in the direction they are, we are hopeful this will soon change.

“Attitudes in Vietnam are changing,” Tuan Bendixsen, Animals Asia’s Vietnam Director explained. “Schools are starting to refuse to attend circuses that use wild animals and over 32,000 Vietnamese people have signed our petition to end the use of wild animals in entertainment. 

“This is a direct result of our tenacious yet collaborative approach to working with authorities and communities. As we have seen time and time again, the only cure for so many of the things we want to change in the world, is kindness.”

Dave Neale, Captive Animal Welfare Director concluded: "We applaud and thank Hanoi Central Circus for releasing their last bears into our care and for continuing to deliver on their commitment to phase out their use of wild animals. We look forward to working with them and other venues across Vietnam to bring an end to all wild animal performances.”

The Spice Girls

We’ve named the four new arrivals Chilli, Saffron, Tiêu (meaning ‘Pepper’ in Vietnamese) and Gừng (meaning ‘Ginger’) in celebration of the rich and vibrant experiences that await them. 

It could take some time for the physical and psychological effects of performing to ease and for them to trust that their new life is here to stay, but with your support we will be with them every step of the way.