Meet Animals Asia’s new sanctuary’s Bear Team Manager, Phuong

31 March 2022

You probably already know that Animals Asia is ending bear bile farming in Vietnam. What you might not know is that the new sanctuary we’re building to house the few hundred bears who still remain on bile farms will be staffed entirely by our local Vietnamese team. 

Changing hearts and minds 

As Animals Asia’s founder and CEO Jill Robinson explains, ‘one of our founding goals is to end bear bile farming through enhancing and developing the capacity of the local animal welfare professionals in the regions we work.’

‘Animal welfare is still a relatively new concept in parts of Asia. Working with local people - introducing the idea that animals are sentient, and sharing best practice about how to care for animals - is the best way to change hearts and minds and ensure that we’re leaving a legacy of kindness for future generations of people and animals.’

‘Animals are just like us, they have lives and emotions.’

Dang Thanh Phuong - who goes by her chosen nickname, Ellie - has worked at Animals Asia’s Vietnam sanctuary in Tam Dao for only a few months, but has already demonstrated a fierce commitment to the welfare of the bears and a genuine love for all animals. 

We caught up with her to find out what her new role as Bear Team Manager means to her.

How long have you worked at Animals Asia’s bear sanctuary?

Only a short while, but it feels like my second home! I feel wonderful every single day as I know I’m on the right path and love what I’m doing.

What do you like about working for Animals Asia?

I have a big love of animals and I love taking care of them, especially those who have been illegally traded, so being able to help directly makes me so happy. 

How is Animals Asia improving animal welfare in Vietnam?

Animals Asia is doing great work for not only bears but also by providing care for local people’s pets which helps raise awareness of animal welfare.

The staff keeps up to date with the latest research into bear behaviour and care, so they can provide the very best care for the rescued bears. 

What do your family and friends think of your job?

My family is supportive and are happy that Animals Asia is training me and looking after me. My friends were a bit surprised at first, because this field is still new to them, so I share pictures of the bears and my work on social media to spread awareness. 

Who is your favourite bear?

I love all the bears, of course! But my favourites are Mai and Bärli. Mai is a tough old lady and the other bears in her house respect her. But she’s also so cute! Bärli is a big, fun and playful bear and he stole my heart the first time I saw his beautiful eyes! He looks like a gangster with all his scars, and he growls when playing with his friends, but deep down, he’s just like a big baby!

Why should we protect bears?

They’re such an adorable species! They coexist with us on this planet and it makes me feel so sad when people ignore their right to live freely. Bears, and all animals, have their own lives and so many emotions - they are just like us.

If we can do nothing good for their lives, the least we can do is not take it away from them.