Vietnam, 28.02.2019 - For years they have suffered terribly as bile bears on a Vietnamese farm in Xuan Loc district (Dong Nai Province), and their rescue was so close. But shortly before the international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS was able to bring the four bears to its BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh, the animals died in an as of yet unexplainable way.
The owner of the bears had agreed to hand over the animals to FOUR PAWS voluntarily. However, when FOUR PAWS staff visited his farm the week before last to investigate the animals' fitness for transport in the presence of local authorities for the upcoming rescue, they found one female bear dead. Her gall bladder and liver had already been removed. These organs bring in stupendous sums on the black market. Within the same week, the three other bears also died. They should have been rescued the week after the next.
Although the Vietnamese government has repeatedly announced its intention to close bile bear farms, an estimated 800 bears on some 250 bear farms are still suffering in appalling conditions; they are malnourished, dehydrated, neglected and at risk of being killed by their owners, all because the illegal sale of organs such as the gall bladder or liver brings in vast sums of money very quickly. In the study "The challenges and conservation implications of bear bile farming in Vietnam", the organisation Free The Bears interviewed 66 bear farmers. Half of them said that if the farm was closed, they would not be afraid to kill the animals.
Bears die in cages despite possibilities for appropriate accommodation
Ioana Dungler, Director of the Wild Animals Department at FOUR PAWS: "Despite applicable laws, such terrible incidents as the one in Xuan Loc district unfortunately often remain without consequences for the farmers. We call on the government to act and put an immediate end to the killing of bears. It is high time! The bears are dying in their cages, although there would be appropriate housing for them. We therefore appeal to the Vietnamese government to press ahead with the closure of bear farms.“
Next Thursday FOUR PAWS will officially open the BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh in Vietnam. Located in Ninh Binh Province, the new bear sanctuary will cover 10 hectares of land and will allow a total of 100 abused bile bears to live peacefully and species-appropriate lives in natural enclosures. 10 former bile bears are already living there, as well as 2 bear cubs saved from the illegal wildlife trade. The bear sanctuary, which was built according to the most modern keeping standards, with its own veterinary clinic, two bear houses, a quarantine station and 4 outdoor enclosures, currently has 32 free places, and by the end of the year a total of over 70 animals could be given a nice home there.
Bear bile business flourishing despite alternatives
Bear bile has been considered a remedy in traditional Chinese medicine for several thousand years and is used to treat eye diseases, haematomas, digestive disorders and other ailments. Although its effect is doubted even by renowned experts of traditional Chinese medicine and there are much better herbal and synthetic alternatives, it is still a sought-after product in many Asian countries today. Although the possession, sale and consumption of bear bile has been banned in Vietnam since 2005, animal husbandry is still permitted. Many bears continue to be illegally bled and the illegal trade in bear bile continues to flourish on Vietnam's streets, in TCM shops, on bile bear farms and on the internet.