Quang Ninh (Vietnam) – Seven Asiatic moon bears have been freed from their captive tiny metal cages where they have lived for years on bile farms.
The long-suffering bears have been rescued from farms in northern Vietnam in efforts to end the illegal trade. Although bear bile farming is illegal, is it legal for people to raise the animals as pets, a loophole commonly used by illicit Vietnamese farms.
There is a large demand for bear bile, which is believed to have healing powers and is used in traditional Chinese medicine.
The bears were rescued from coastal Quang Ninh province earlier this week and were found in extremely poor condition with maimed or missing limbs after being confined in small cages.
According to Animal Asia, honey was used by rescuers to calmly coax some of the bears out of their cages where they transported to a removal truck. Others, unwilling to move, were darted and moved onto stretchers before being loaded into the removal trucks. The bears were transferred to the charity’s sanctuary in another province.
“This week will see Quang Ninh province come very close to being bear bile farm free,” Animals Asia Vietnam director Tuan Bendixsen said, adding the group aims to rescue seven more bears in the coming days.
“We will keep on fighting and campaigning until every last captive bear suffering in the province has been moved to our sanctuary,” Bendixsen said.
Authorities have stepped up their efforts to close down bile farms and rescue the bears after a flurry of deaths at the farms drew attention to the problem. The plight even caused stir from Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung who ordered all bears in captivity in the province to be moved to better care facilities.
Animals Asia says that Quang Ninh is among the provinces with the highest rate of captive moon bears due to the demand for bear bile from Chinese and Korean tourists. Authorities are still in negotiations with other bile farmers who have about 16 bears in captivity.
According to the agriculture ministry, there are approximately 1,245 bears in captivity in the nation. Although the communist nation has signed treaties against bear bile trade, enforcement remains sketchy in part, due to corruption.