Trafficked bear cub found in backpack now safe in sanctuary

31 July 2015

Murphy at Sop Cop FPD, Son La province 5

A bear cub discovered being trafficked in a backpack last week arrived at Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre in the early hours of Friday morning after an urgent rescue mission.

The three month old sun bear cub, who has been named Murphy, was discovered by Forest Protection Department rangers in Sop Cop district in the mountainous north western province of Son La which borders both Laos and China.

When rangers confronted the trafficker smuggling the bear in a backpack, he fled and swam across a river to escape but was later tracked via his motorbike license plate and apprehended. He has admitted to killing the bear cub’s mother in order to traffic the cub and is facing criminal charges. 

Being so young, it was vital that the cub urgently receive the care necessary to ensure his survival triggering a race against the clock to complete paperwork and transport the sun bear over 430km of isolated and mountainous terrain.

Murphy was fed with milk after being rescued (1)

Animals Asia’s Vietnam Director Tuan Bendixsen said:

“We’re indebted to the local Forest Protection Department for both their vigilance in catching the criminal and also the speed with which they organised the transfer of Murphy to our sanctuary. Like human babies, bear cubs require special care regarding their environment and diet making Murphy’s rescue especially urgent.

“Staff at Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre now have vast experience in looking after bear cubs due to the tragic profusion of wildlife trafficking taking place across Vietnam’s borders as animals are smuggled from Laos and Cambodia destined for lucrative markets in Vietnam and China.”

To date, Animals Asia – the charity behind the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre – has rescued 32 bear cubs in the country, each one a victim of poachers and traffickers.

Animals Asia’s Bear and Vet Team Director Annemarie Weegenaar said:

“We’re delighted to have Murphy back with us so quickly so that we can start to give him the care he needs. Sun bear cubs usually stay with their mothers until they are around two years old so to be torn from his mother at just three months is a real tragedy for Murphy.”

Bears trafficked in the region are often destined for bear bile farms in China and Vietnam. In China more than 10,000 bears are believed to be held on bear bile farms so that the bile stored in their gall bladder can be sold for use in traditional medicine. While bear bile farms are legal in China, the trafficking of wild animals has long been outlawed.

In Vietnam, bear bile farming has been illegal since 1992 but the practice persists with 1,245 moon and sun bears being held on farms around the country as of March 2015 according to statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Murphy is the 24th bear to be rescued by Animals Asia in Vietnam this year. Such a large volume of new arrivals puts a huge strain on the organisation, particularly in the case of cubs such as Murphy who can expect to live for up to 30 years. If you'd like to donate to the care of Murphy and the 23 other bears rescued this year, please visit our website.

Murphy at Sop Cop FPD, Son La 2