FOUR PAWS opens new bear sanctuary in Vietnam

Hundreds of animals still suffer on bear farms.


7 March 2019 – The international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS officially opened its BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh in Vietnam on 7 March. Located in Ninh Binh Province, the new bear sanctuary already provides a species-appropriate home for twelve bears, including ten former bile bears. In the past, they were regularly abused illegally for bile, which is, among other things, used in traditional medicine. There are still an estimated 800 animals suffering on about 250 bear farms. FOUR PAWS therefore calls on the Vietnamese government to press ahead with the closure of bear farms and to place the animals in sanctuaries. Ultimately, BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh will have room for 100 abused bears.

With the opening of BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh, FOUR PAWS is achieving an important milestone in the fight against the illegal keeping of so-called bile bears. Although FOUR PAWS has rescued a dozen bears from cruel keeping over the past two years, there is still much to do.

“In 35 of a total of 58 provinces, around 800 bears are still suffering on farms that are not species-appropriate. They are completely neglected, malnourished and suffering the worst of tortures. We have enough space here in BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh. By the end of the year we want to provide a species-appropriate home for over 40 bears in total. We therefore appeal to the Vietnamese government to press ahead with the closure of bear farms. It is high time to end the suffering of the bile bears once and for all,”

says FOUR PAWS founder and President Heli Dungler in his opening speech

Opening ceremony overshadowed by tragedy

FOUR PAWS had originally planned to rescue seven bile bears from three different bear farms in Dong Nai Province in southern Vietnam and bring them to the sanctuary. Tragic circumstances, however, thwarted the plan, with four bears dying within a week on the same farm. Their cause of death has yet to be determined. “Despite current legislation, such terrible incidents as the one in Dong Nai unfortunately often have no consequences for the farmers. The bears are dying in their cages, although there would be adequate sanctuaries for them. We therefore call for a full investigation into their cause of death,” says Heli Dungler.


Bear bile business flourishing despite alternatives

Bear bile has been considered a remedy in traditional medicine for several thousand years and is used to treat eye diseases, hematomas, digestive disorders and other discomforts.  Although its effect is doubted even by renowned experts of traditional medicine and there are much better herbal and synthetic alternatives, it is still a sought-after product in many Asian countries. Although the possession, sale and consumption of bear bile has been banned in Vietnam since 2005, the keeping of the animals is still permitted.


Sanctuary offers space for a total of 100 bears

BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh, which will encompass 10 hectares once all construction work is completed, is open to the public now. Locals and tourists from all over the world can get an idea of how formerly tortured farm bears gradually regain their natural instincts and live in a bear-friendly environment. The first visitors were impressed by the spacious open-air enclosures with ponds, trees, climbing and hiding places. The BEAR SANCTUARY is not only a new home for former bile bears, it is also an educational and awareness-raising centre for animal and species conservation in Vietnam. The sanctuary, which was built according to the most modern standards, has its own animal clinic, two bear houses, a quarantine station and four outdoor enclosures.


Impressions from the BEAR SANCTUARY:

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Hannah Baker

Head of Communications UK 

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