Two endangered moon bear cubs safe in sanctuary after rescue from Vietnamese circus

25 April 2019

Cubs Sugar and Spice were rescued after Animals Asia investigators discovered them being forced to perform on stage in downtown Hanoi, Vietnam.

An Animals Asia rescue team successfully freed two female moon bear cubs from Central Circus in downtown Hanoi, Vietnam after the authorities confirmed they were being held illegally.

The cubs were transferred to Animals Asia’s award-winning Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre in nearby Vinh Phuc province on Wednesday 24 April, where they immediately entered a quarantine area.

Animals Asia Vietnam Director Tuan Bendixsen said:

“We’re very grateful to the authorities for taking swift action in this case and sending a clear message to circuses around the country that they are not above the nation’s wildlife laws.

“This rescue will be a deterrent to those who would commit wildlife crime, a wake up call for the public who may consider attending an animal circus, and hopefully a catalyst for the government to take a closer look at other facilities around the country using protected and endangered species in their shows.”

Sugar and Spice health check

The cubs, named Sugar and Spice weigh just 36 and 50 kilogrammes respectively and are believed to be under a year old. A preliminary health check found no serious health problems but Spice was found to have a scar on her wrist – likely from being trapped in the wild – while Sugar had suffered some dental damage.

Scar visible on Spice from being trapped in the wild

With no survival skills and no safe forest for release, it is likely the bear cubs will spend the rest of their lives – potentially up to 30 years – in the care of Animals Asia.

At the sanctuary they will have access to large, semi-natural outdoor enclosures filled with trees, grass, climbing frames, swimming pools and rock piles which will keep them stimulated and encourage natural behaviours.

When they are old enough, they will be integrated with an existing community of bear providing even more stimulation for the duo.

While Hanoi’s Central Circus holds many other endangered species, including moon bears, macaques, pythons and an elephant, Animals Asia was unable to rescue these individuals as the circus currently holds legal paperwork for their ownership.

An Animals Asia investigation in 2017 revealed that circuses up and down the country were routinely forcing endangered species to perform while 100% of facilities failed to meet the basic needs of the animals.

To date, no facility has been able to explain the origin of their protected species, yet the rescue of Sugar and Spice marks the first time the authorities have taken punitive action against a circus or tourist facility in possession of a protected species.

With facilities unable to breed bears and their poaching and sale illegal, serious questions remain as to how the animals are being obtained.

Animals Asia is currently petitioning the Vietnam government to ban wild animal performance and send the animals to recognised rescue centres and sanctuaries.

The petition currently has more than 120,000 signatures and will be presented to the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism during a meeting with the charity in May.

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

As cubs, Sugar and Spice can expect to live up to 30 years. And with no survival skills or safe forests for release, they will likely spend the rest of their lives in our care.

That’s a huge commitment we can only make with your help.

A gift from you today could help support the long-term care and rehabilitation facing these two innocent bears. Could you help give these brave little bears the happy new livest they deserve?

Happy rescued bears living in Animals Asia's sanctuary, 2015