27 May 2020 – Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS has rescued an Asiatic black bear cub that was handed over to the Vietnamese authorities in Son La province on 18th May 2020. The female cub was only a few months old when it was offered for sale by illegal wildlife traders on the border with Laos. But, thanks to the quick intervention of one Vietnamese family the bear cub was spared from life in a bear farm or from being killed for human consumption. FOUR PAWS was then quickly called upon by the authorities to assist in providing health care and ultimately bring the cub, who was named Mochi, to its BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh.
FOUR PAWS commends the Vietnamese authorities and its local partner Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV), whom the family reached out to first, for reacting so quickly and ensuring Mochi was taken to a species-appropriate home. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak the rescue action had to follow strict safety precautions, but a small FOUR PAWS team made the four-and-a-half-hour drive from BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh in Northern Vietnam to Son La province where Mochi was.
“Little Mochi is alert, playful and intelligent. She is in good physical condition and her health exam did not reveal any significant abnormalities. Weighing two kilograms, she is a little thinner than she should be and is having some minor gastrointestinal issues, however, both conditions will resolve within a few weeks after receiving appropriate milk and supportive care from our expert team,”
says FOUR PAWS Vietnam veterinarian Szilvia Kalogeropoulu.
Mochi is at a vulnerable age as her immune system is not fully developed yet, so the team at BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh will provide her with all the care she needs to grow into a healthy bear. Sadly it is unlikely Mochi will be able to be released back into the wild, so she will remain at the sanctuary.
Wildlife trade in Vietnam
The legal and illegal wildlife trade in Vietnam is a billion-dollar industry which sees animals taken from the wild and bred in captivity to be sold in markets, restaurants, online and used in pseudo-traditional medicines throughout the country. “It’s difficult to say if Mochi was taken from the wild or captive bred in one of the many Vietnam or Laotian bear farms, however, she obviously was taken from her mother at an age where she is now lucky to be alive. We don’t condone buying wildlife regardless of the intentions because it only funds the trade further. However in this case, the swift reactions from everyone involved ensured that Mochi is now safe,” says Kieran Harkin, International Head of Programmes for Wild Animals in Trade at FOUR PAWS. Vietnam’s government has recently requested a directive to stop the illegal wildlife trade and wild animals used for human consumption following the news that the COVID-19 outbreak likely came from the consumption of wild animals in China. Until this legislation is passed and real change is implemented, millions of wild animals like Mochi will continue to suffer.
BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh: A species-appropriate home for rescued bears
In recent years, the number of bears on bear farms in Vietnam has dramatically declined from approximately 936 in 2017 to 414 currently being held on private bear farms. “Whilst we have seen a huge reduction in the number of bears on farms, there are still regions with large numbers which remain hotspots for both the supply and demand for bear bile. These regions must now be the focus of demand reduction campaigns and enforcement efforts by the authorities to ensure we end all bear farming in Vietnam,” says Harkin. With its bear sanctuary in Ninh Binh, FOUR PAWS is supporting the Vietnamese government to end bile bear farming in Vietnam and provide a species-appropriate home for up to 100 rescued bears once all construction is finished. Including new arrival Mochi, the bear sanctuary is currently home to 32 Asiatic black bears.