Delight as first bear is secretly rescued from Vietnam’s last bile farm hotspot

11 April 2019


Years of outreach has resulted in the secret rescue of female moon bear Amy who has suffered more than a decade of cruelty and neglect.

On Monday 8 April, Animals Asia secretly rescued female moon bear Amy from a bear bile farm in Vietnam’s notorious Phung Thuong village. 

The tiny village within the greater Hanoi metropolitan area currently holds 164 bears – around a quarter of all those held in cruel captivity across the country.

Until now, the bear bile farmers had maintained a united front against offers to rescue emaciated and sick bears, but the rescue of Amy represents the first crack in their resolve which could trigger the rescue of many more bears in desperate need of medical care.

Animals Asia Vietnam Director Tuan Bendixsen said:

“Phung Thuong is a small community with a huge bear bile farming problem. Everyone knows each other here and nobody wanted to be the first to break ranks and give their bears up for rescue. We’ve been working here for years and finally that dedication has paid off.

“To reduce the pressure on the local community, we agreed to rescue Amy covertly as this will provide the greatest chance of allowing other farmers to follow suit and give up their bears.

“The important thing is that Amy is safe now and we can urgently begin to give her the medical attention she desperately needs.”

The first medical examination of Amy has revealed she has suffered terrible neglect which has left her emaciated, traumatised and in terrible pain.

Animals Asia Resident Veterinarian Kate Shipton said:

“When Amy arrived, we were immediately worried as she was listless and depressed. This poor bear is severely underweight with much of her muscle mass having wasted away due to years of inactivity from living in a confined space. 

“She has also lost part of her tongue through an unknown trauma and has major infection in her mouth. She will require large-scale dental surgery to remove many of her broken and diseased teeth. Thankfully, we found no evidence of cancerous tumours in her damaged gallbladder and we’ll be working to help her build strength and put on weight.”

Amy will immediately begin a rehabilitation process starting with a 45-day quarantine period. After this she will be moved to progressively larger spaces before meeting other bears and eventually, when she is ready, being given access to a large outdoor enclosure.

Animals Asia has been working in Phung Thuong village since 2016 to raise awareness of the cruelty behind bear bile farming while also offering free traditional medicine clinics prescribing herbal alternatives to bear bile.

In 2017, Animals Asia signed a legally binding agreement with the Vietnam government to completely end bear bile farming and send every bear to sanctuary by 2022. 

However, the order to begin bear rescues cannot be given until the Prime Minister signs off on a complete plan as to where the bears will be sent.

There is currently believed to be up to 800 bears in private hands, while there is only space in existing rescue centres for 160 bears. 

To this end, Animals Asia is currently drawing up plans to construct at least one – possibly two – new rescue centres to provide safety and sanctuary for every bear currently suffering on bear bile farms in Vietnam.

Animals Asia Founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE said:

“This is a truly momentous day – firstly for Amy herself whose life will completely change from this moment on – but also in terms of closing down every farm in Phung Thuong. The significance of the first willing release of a bear from this most resistant of villages is a testimony to the outreach we’ve done in pagodas, schools and village halls over the last three years. Amy is as beautiful as she was vulnerable and her condition says it all about the miserable life she had on the farm. At last there is a ray of hope for all the bears suffering in silence in the village.”

Our work doesn’t end when a bear is rescued. That’s when it really begins… 

A gift from you today could help support the long-term care and rehabilitation facing Amy. Could you help mend this brave bear?

Amy's paw is dry and cracked from never stepping on grass