Two more bears rescued in Survival Rescue named in memory of those lost in recent Vietnam floods

05 November 2020

On Tuesday 3 November the Animals Asia rescue team rushed to a bear farm in Ninh Dan Village, in Phu Tho Province approximately 65km from the Animals Asia’s bear sanctuary in Tam Dao National Park to retrieve two bears who had been trapped by the bile industry for many years. The evening before the rescue the team prepared the rescue truck with two transport cages and all of the supplies needed for the rescue and in the early hours of the morning the team accompanied the truck to the rescue site in a minibus. 

The team arrived and assessed the situation. Although initially informed that one of the bears was male, it transpired that both were female bears who had been kept in cages in a shed with little sunlight or ventilation on the property for up to 20 years.

Help them begin their new lives of peace

Despite the fact that extracting bile from bears has been illegal in Vietnam for decades, the sign at the front of the property clearly identified the property as a bile farm, and these bears have no doubt been subject to the repeated, regular, painful extraction of bile over much of their lives.

The bears, who have been named Storm and Torrent by their rescuers in acknowledgment of the devastating floods recently causing such loss and suffering to so many people in Vietnam, needed to be anesthetized to be removed from their cages. This allowed the resident veterinarian team to assess the health of the bears before transferring them into transport cages for the journey back to the Animals Asia sanctuary.

Resident Veterinary Surgeon Kate Shipton said:

“Everything went really smoothly with transferring them into our transport cages. First we got Storm out. Overall her health condition seems to be very good, however she does have a very deformed hind limb. It is twisted and it’s hard to know whether she sustained some kind of injury or a fracture that had healed badly or whether this may be some kind of growth deformity from spending her life in a small cage. Other than that her teeth and overall condition are really good.

“Once we got Storm out we then moved on and we got Torrent out of her cage. Again the anaesthetic went really smoothly. She does have some major dental disease. She has two broken canine teeth, and a couple of other broken smaller teeth and lots of calculus build up in her mouth. She is maybe a little bit on the thin side and she had extremely overgrown nails on all of her feet. They were very long so we managed to cut those right back for her, so hopefully she’ll be much more comfortable.”

After the roughly hour long journey back to the sanctuary Storm and Torrent began a crucial 45 day quarantine period. They joined recently rescued bear Uno in the quarantine area. Our bear care team chose not to unload Storm and Torrent into their Temporary Area cages immediately as they woke up quite late in the day, in fact, they only stood up just after 5PM having slept for the whole journey to the sanctuary.

The rescue team all went home to have a well-deserved rest handing over to our bear care team.

Vet and Bear Team Director Heidi Quine said:

"The bears were held in a big brick barn. Inside it's dark, it's dank, it's very humid. It's oppressive actually. Oppressive is the perfect word for it. And to think that these majestic creatures, who should be living in the complexity and beauty of the forest, have been living there, in Storm’s case for perhaps seven years, and from what we know of Torrent, she's been living on the farm for 18 years. So to think that their spirits can survive so long in that kind of environment, it speaks to the courage and the tenacity of these bears who are the 221st and 222nd bears rescued by Animals Asia here in Vietnam. Two more bears have their freedom today and it’s the best feeling in the world.”

Storm and Torrent will spend 45 days in quarantine at the sanctuary, before being moved into dens with access to outdoor areas, and eventually they will be integrated into the existing population of bears in our care.

In 2017 Animals Asia signed an exclusive MOU with the Vietnamese government to completely end bear bile farming in the country. With our existing sanctuary nearly at capacity, we are preparing to build a second Vietnam sanctuary next year in order to be able to rescue and care for the hundreds of bears still remaining on farms here in Vietnam. 

Vietnam Director Tuan Bendixsen said:

“The rescue went exceptionally well. Our team did a really wonderful job at getting the bears out safely and onto the truck. And another positive aspect of this rescue is that the owner, after seeing what we’ve done and how much care we took in looking after the bears, they said they want to do more to contribute to help us to end bear farming in Vietnam. It’s a really good sign that a bear farmer is willing to come out and say ‘we will help you get all the bears, by way of encouraging others to do what we have done today'.”

We have all been devastated by the stories of suffering and destruction caused by the terrible floods currently inundating much of Vietnam. This is our community, and our hearts go out to those that have lost their homes, their lives and loved ones. At the same time, we are buoyed by the amazing stories of survival, and of people reaching out to help others in their time of need – and not just other people, but their animal companions as well.

As a tribute to those who have lost so much, and to those who have shown such bravery, we named our latest rescue bears Storm and Torrent. They too have been drowning in a sea of pain and suffering. They too have shown such bravery in their determination to carry on. They too have survived.

Now, thanks to you, they’re on their way to freedom.

And this, we know is just the start. There are hundreds more bears to save throughout the country. With our exclusive agreement with the Vietnamese government to end bile farming over the next couple of years, we are on the verge rescuing the hundreds of bears remaining on bile farms in Vietnam. These two beautiful, broken bears are just a trickle that will soon become a flood of kindness and compassion, as we finally end bear bile farming in Vietnam forever.


Recent rescue of Uno the bear

Jill Robinson signs exclusive Memorandum of Understanding on behalf of Animals Asia with the Vietnam Government to end bile farming in the country.