BREAKING: Halong Bay bears set for rescue

23 April 2015

A bear with a missing limb at Cau Trang bear farm

Following international pressure from animal lovers across the world, it has been announced that the Halong Bay bears can be rescued by Animals Asia.

In addition, the local authorities of Vietnam’s Quang Ninh government have agreed to COMPLETELY END bear bile farming in the province by transferring all of the remaining 38 bears to Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre.

The action is a direct result of the Save the Halong Bay Bears campaign which garnered over 115,000 signatures from animal lovers globally. They were joined by celebrities such as Judi Dench, Olivia Newton John, Stephen Fry and Ali MacGraw. A letter from 12 Embassies added further pressure on the authorities.

The Quang Ninh government has agreed to reward each farmer who complies with the transfer. In return Animals Asia has agreed to cover the cost of the bear rescues, housing, rehabilitation and subsequent care.

From May 4, the Quang Ninh authorities will begin reaching agreements with the 17 bear farmers in the province to secure their agreement to immediate transfer of the bears.

The first two bears will be rescued on May 5 from a remote island in the Bai Tu Long Bay archipelago north of Halong Bay in what will be Animals Asia’s first sea rescue.

The transfer of all 38 bears in the province is expected to be complete in June.

The breakthrough came at landmark meetings involving Quang Ninh province governmental departments ranging from police to tourism, representatives of Animals Asia and the majority of the province’s bear bile farmers.

The proposed rescues will see Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre return to full capacity despite the completion of two new double bear houses in November 2014. 

Animals Asia is committed to building a fifth double bear house with enclosures on the site, a move which was delayed by an attempted eviction of the facility in 2012.

While there will be den space for all the rescued bears, until the new double bear house with enclosures is funded and completed it is expected around 16 bears are unlikely to have access to external enclosures.  However, they can begin their rehabilitation while fundraising and construction is prioritised.

A skeletal bear at Cau Trang bear farm

Animals Asia’s Vietnam Director Tuan Bendixsen said:

“The recent meetings marked a complete change in tone. It was the first time that the provincial authorities had declared the bears would be transferred in accordance with a Prime Ministerial Directive from March. The language was very strong and bear bile farmers were left in no doubt that this was not an optional transfer.”

Farmers have been informed that any attempt to transfer bears out of the province would meet prosecution while any further bear deaths prior to the rescues would not be tolerated. However, concerns over such actions will remain until the rescues are complete.

Bear languished in cage at Cau Trang bear farm 10

Animals Asia founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE said:

“This is incredible news – an enormous success for Vietnam’s bears and all those around the world who have campaigned for their dignified release from the clutches of the bear bile industry.  You did this.  

“The rescue of these 38 bears would simply not have happened without consistent pressure from 12 embassies, the signatures from the 116,000 people around the world who voiced their opposition, and the fearless, tireless persistence of Animals Asia’s staff in Vietnam who refused to let this issue be ignored. This is a victory for us all.

“I make no apologies when I say - now we need to do more. Asking for help for the bears won’t end here – just as bear bile farming doesn’t end with Quang Ninh province.  Rescuing all these bears will put the whole organisation under huge pressure but it’s a duty we can never shirk.  At a time when the bear bile farming industry is literally crumbling the bears have never needed their friends more.  Today, we can allow ourselves a moment’s pride that what we are achieving together is nothing short of stunning. Then we take a breath and fight on. We’ve won the battle – we have to win the war too.”

Painfully thin bear on a Halong Bay bear farm