Six bears rescued from a bile farm in Vietnam

09 December 2016

Six moon bears have been rescued from a bear bile farm in central Vietnam and successfully transported 1,300km to a sanctuary.

After up to 10 years in cages, the six bears were finally freed from a bile farm in Buon Ma Thuot city by an Animals Asia rescue team on Monday 4 December.

The bears then travelled 1,300km by road to Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre in Tam Dao, an hour outside of the capital Hanoi, arriving on Thursday 8 December.

During the rescue an emergency health check was carried out by Animals Asia’s veterinary team to relieve one of the bears’ chronic pain.

The moon bear – now named Snow – was suffering from deformed back paws as a result of captivity, which had caused his claws to grow into the pads of his paws.

Vets found the claws had ingrown up to 3 centimetres causing rotting and pus-filled wounds which would have happened slowly and painfully over the course of at least a year.

Animals Asia’s Senior Veterinarian Mandala Hunter-Ishikawa said:

“Snow was in terrible condition. In addition to the rotten and painful wounds on his paws we discovered that at some point in captivity he had lost two thirds of his tongue. It is likely to have been bitten off in a fight with another bear. 

“We were able to provide him with pain relief and antibiotics which would have made the journey much more pleasant for him. Now he’s back at the sanctuary we can closely monitor his wounds and finally end the chronic pain he’s been suffering.”

Having completed the long journey to their new home, the bears will start a period of quarantine before beginning their rehabilitation process.


A video posted by Animals Asia (@animalsasia) on Dec 5, 2016 at 6:57pm PST


Bears rescued from bile farms typically suffer from a range of physical and mental issues. Many have lived with chronic pain from wounds or broken teeth, are disabled from being trapped in the wild or are mentally scarred from the trauma of a lifetime of captivity in tiny cages.

Animals Asia founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE said:

“We are so pleased and relieved to have these six traumatised bears safely ‘home’. Their suffering has been profound - not just for days or weeks but most likely for around 10 years. Now we can start to mend their broken bodies and minds. At the sanctuary they will receive health care, be introduced to a community of friendly bears, kept physically and mentally stimulated and eventually be able to forage in a large outdoor enclosure.

“It will take time but we know from experience that even bears which have suffered as much as these brave six, can recover and live out the rest of their days in comfort and peace. Our endless thanks to people across the world who joined hands with us to help – you have carried these bears home.”


A video posted by Animals Asia (@animalsasia) on Dec 7, 2016 at 6:38pm PST


The rescue was made possible thanks to the efforts of Forest Protection Department officials in Dak Lak province who convinced the farmer to willingly give up the bears.

Animals Asia’s Vietnam Director Tuan Bendixsen said:

“Thanks to the co-operation of the Dak Lak provincial Forest Protection Department, we were able to close yet another farm in the province. With these six cages empty, Dak Lak is now just one bear away from being completely bear bile farm free. Whenever the last farmer can be convinced to give up his long-suffering animal, we will be back.”


A video posted by Animals Asia (@animalsasia) on Dec 8, 2016 at 11:19pm PST


Bear bile farming is the practice of keeping live bears for the purpose of extracting their bile – via a variety of invasive and painful techniques – for use in traditional medicine.

In 2005, the Vietnamese government attempted to eradicate bear bile farming by microchipping every bear in captivity and banning any new bears from being added to existing stocks.

At the time, more than 4,200 bears were being held on farms around the country. As the state was unable to provide rescue shelters for such a large number of animals, the farmers were allowed to keep the bears on the proviso they would no longer extract bile.

Unfortunately, this pragmatic solution has allowed bear bile farming to persist in the country despite its illegality. Around 1,000 bears are still being kept caged on bile farms in Vietnam.

To date, Animals Asia has rescued around 600 bears, mostly from the bear bile industry. Animals Asia continues to care for around 400 bears in sanctuaries in China and Vietnam.