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Suffering finally comes to an end for Vietnamese bears

FOUR PAWS rescues and brings first bears to their new sanctuary in Ninh Binh, Vietnam


NINH BINH, VIETNAM—November 7, 2017 –FOUR PAWS International, the global animal welfare organization, this week successfully rescued and brought the first Asian black bears to the new FOUR PAWS bear sanctuary in Ninh Binh, located in north-east Vietnam. Among the three rescued animals was the bear Hai Chan who before the rescue mission was held captive as a bile bear.


Hai Chan’s bile was regularly extracted and used in traditional Chinese medicine, despite animal-friendly alternatives being available. The past 10 years have left their mark on Hai Chan, who suffers from stress disorders, enlarged adrenal glands and two missing front paws.


"Hai Chan spent most of her life in a tiny metal cage kept in a filthy, poorly ventilated room,” said Kieran Harkin, FOUR PAWS Head of International Wild Animals Campaigns. “In addition to miserable conditions, she experienced a lack of nutrition, painful bile extraction procedures, and the amputation of her two front paws, which we assume were used to produce bear paw wine. These events have taken a huge toll on her.”


FOUR PAWS also rescued bears Thai Van and Thai Giang and brought them to FOUR PAWS’ newly constructed state-of-the-art sanctuary. Female bear Thai Van and male bear Thai Giang have also had a difficult past. Until recently, their owner kept the two 16-year-old Asian black bears as pets in the backyard of a steel production company.


“Whether or not they were previously abused for bile extraction is unknown. However, given their health condition, it is clear the two bears have been kept in similarly dreadful conditions. Their teeth are dull and the animals are full of parasites. Thai Van is missing some fingers. We are glad that the owner handed over the bears to us," Harkin stated.


At the new sanctuary, the bears will be kept in quarantine for several weeks. During this time, an experienced team of FOUR PAWS staff will examine the bears. Following their examinations, Thai Van, Thai Giang and Hai Chan will be released into their outdoor enclosures. The first three residents of the newly opened sanctuary can expect comprehensive veterinary care and a life without torment in a species-appropriate environment.


After almost a year of building, the first construction phase of the new FOUR PAWS sanctuary was recently completed. The area has four large outdoor enclosures and currently covers about 10 acres. On the property, there are two bear houses with indoor boxes, a quarantine, a veterinary station, a bear kitchen, and an administrative building.


“When completed, the Ninh Binh sanctuary will provide a species-appropriate home for up to 100 rescued bears,” said Robert Ware, FOUR PAWS USA Executive Director who joined the rescue of the three bears. “FOUR PAWS plans to continue to work closely in collaboration with the Vietnamese government. In doing so, we can be assured 100 new bears will have a second chance at life, free of suffering. Our end goal, however, is to end bile bear farming in Vietnam for good.”


Although the practice has been officially banned in Vietnam since 1992, there are approximately 400 farms housing an estimated 1,300 bears. Bear bile has been used as a remedy in traditional Chinese medicine for several thousand years and is still a sought-after product in many Asian countries. Due to the regular, brutal extraction of bile and the lack of veterinary care, the bears suffer from various diseases such as infections, abscesses, blood poisoning and liver cancer. The extremely poor keeping conditions on the bear farms also lead to serious behavioral disorders, including self-mutilation.


In 2005, the Vietnamese government launched a campaign to phase out bear farming through attrition. All captive bears were registered and microchipped as part of an effort to ensure that no new bears entered farms. The bears, which remained as the property of the state, were to be looked after by the farmers until their transfer to a local sanctuary or natural death. Bear farmers were also required to sign a declaration to never again extract bile.


In 2017, the Vietnamese government also issued a statement of their intent to end bear farming and begin rescuing bears. To help support this goal, FOUR PAWS launched an international campaign urging animal lovers worldwide to sign a petition to encourage the Vietnamese government to do whatever it takes to put an end to bear farming: Over 580,000 signatures have already been collected.