Animal Charity

Vietnamese bile bears May and Binh Yen rescued


FOUR PAWS ends bile bear keeping in Ninh Binh province

Suffering is finally over for two Vietnamese bile bears, May and Binh Yen, who lived most of their lives in agony on a bear farm in the Vietnamese province of Ninh Binh. In April 2018, we rescued the two Asiatic black bears from their tiny metal cages and brought them to BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh, opened in 2017. May and Binh Yen were the last bile bears to languish on a farm in Ninh Binh province. Their rescue marked the end to the keeping of bile bears in the entire region. Sadly, in other provinces of Vietnam, more than 936 bears are still suffering on bear farms as humans continue to illegally extract their bile using cruel methods.

May and Binh Yen are currently in the quarantine station at BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh they will receive veterinary care from FOUR PAWS veterinarians and animal caretakers. A lifetime of abuse has left appalling, physical marks on them. Veterinarian Dr. Johanna Painer of the Veterinary University in Vienna accompanied the rescue: “The ultrasound showed Binh Yen’s gallbladder and liver have changed significantly. A scar at the entrance of the gallbladder clearly indicates abuse as a bile bear. Sadly, her condition is critical.”

For 15 years, the animals were trapped in dirty cages and lived among 10 other bear victims. Nine of them died in recent years. FOUR PAWS was able to rescue a single fellow victim and bring her to BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh in November 2017:  bear Hai Chan, who is missing both front paws. Her sad fate and successful rescue touched millions of people worldwide. Over the coming weeks, May and Binh Yen will receive intensive veterinary care from the FOUR PAWS vets. The team hopes that after quarantine and a period of familiarisation with the bear house, both bears might be able to move into their new home in about five weeks. A large, newly built outdoor enclosure next to Hai Chan's awaits them. Apart from May, Binh Yen and Hai Chan, six other former bile bears currently live in the sanctuary.

The suffering of bile bears in Vietnam is not yet over

Vietnam is one of the few countries in Asia to have taken legal action against the keeping of bile bears. However, it is imperative that existing laws are implemented more consistently. Kieran Harkin, Head of International Wild Animal Campaigns at FOUR PAWS, stated: “We are glad that we were able to end the keeping of bile bears in Ninh Binh with the support of the local authorities. Unfortunately, in many other provinces of Vietnam bile extraction is still happening. We have 38 free spots at our BEAR SANCTUARY and we are ready to welcome this many suffering bears to a happy life free of pain as soon as possible. Therefore, with the support of hundreds of thousands of animal friends, we urge the Vietnamese government to vigorously pursue the promised closure of all remaining bear farms.”

Bear bile business flourishes despite alternatives

Bear bile has been used as a remedy for eye infections, bruises, indigestion and other conditions in traditional Chinese medicine for several thousands of years. Although the effects are questioned by renowned experts, and despite the fact that better herbal and synthetic alternatives are available, bear bile is still a much sought-after product in many Asian countries. The possession, sale and consumption of bear bile in Vietnam has been banned since 2005. However, about 936 animals still suffer on bear farms. Many farms continue to illegally extract bile, while the illegal trade in bear bile on Vietnam’s streets, in TCM shops, on bile bear farms as well as on the Internet, is flourishing:

Joint mission against animal cruelty

In 2005, the Vietnamese government launched a campaign to phase out bear farming. All captive bears were registered and microchipped as part of efforts to ensure that no new bears enter the farms. The bears, which became state property, were to be looked after by farmers until their transfer to a local sanctuary or their natural death. Bear farmers were also required to sign a declaration pledging to never extract bile again. In 2017, the Vietnamese government additionally issued a statement of intent on ending bear farming and rescuing bears.

FOUR PAWS supports the efforts of the government by conducting rescue missions and has also launched an international campaign. Animal lovers worldwide can sign the FOUR PAWS petition to encourage the Vietnamese government to do whatever it takes to put an end to bear farming: FOUR PAWS aims to hand over the signatures of one million people to the Vietnamese government. More than 750,000 signatures have already been collected.

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Hannah Baker

Head of Communications UK 

020 7922 7954 / 07966 032 235

7 - 14 Great Dover Street, London, SE1 4YR


FOUR PAWS is an international animal welfare organisation with headquarters in Vienna, Austria. Founded by Heli Dungler in 1988, the organisation strives to help animals in need with sustainable campaigns and projects. The work is based on substantiated research and scientific expertise as well as intensive national and international lobbying. FOUR PAWS focuses on animals that are directly under human influence: stray dogs and stray cats, farm animals, companion animals and wild animals including bears, big cats and orang-utans kept in inappropriate conditions. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Kosovo, Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand, Ukraine, United Kingdom, USA and Vietnam, FOUR PAWS aims to help animals in need directly and quickly.