Two endangered moon bears rescued in Vietnam's Central Highlands

By Pham Huong   April 13, 2017 | 08:53 am GMT+7

The bears will soon begin rehabilitation process while the farm which has kept them for more than a decade will be closed. 

Animal welfare charity Animals Asia said it has successfully rescued two moon bears (Ursus thibetanus) held for 12 years in the Central Highlands to extract bile.

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The bears were kept in iron cages. Photo courtesy of Animals Asia.

The bears had been raised in cages barely larger than their bodies since 2005 in Gia Lai Province so their bile could be extracted for use in traditional medicine, Animals Asia said. It first learnt of the duo in 2011, but their owner has only recently agreed to release them after much pressure from the local Forestry Department.

The bears, named Bazan and Wendles by their rescuers, were quickly given a general health check. They were found to be relatively well, but with stereotyped behaviors commonly found among long-time caged animals, said veterinarian Weng Yan Nash of the rescue team.

After the rescue on Tuesday, the duo has left for a journey of more than 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) in a truck to Animals Asia's Vietnam Bear Rescue Center in the northern province of Vinh Phuc. They're expected to arrive Friday at the sanctuary, currently home to another 159 bears, mostly rescued from the bear bile industry, said Animals Asia.

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Wendles waiting to board the truck. Photo courtesy of Animals Asia.

“Poor Bazan and Wendles have had to wait far too long for their suffering to be relieved, but their day has now come," Jill Robinson, Animals Asia’s Founder and CEO, said in a statement.

The farm where the bears were kept will be closed and the authority will make sure the owner never be allowed to keep bears, the statement said.

After reaching their new home, the bears would begin their rehabilitation process. They would be given medical attention and surgery to correct any painful or life-threatening conditions and begin eating a healthy, species-specific diet for the first time in their lives.

Eventually, they would be free to explore a large semi-natural enclosure, forage for food and learn to live and play with a community of other bears, according to Animals Asia's report.

With the duo, Animals Asia has rescued 177 bears in Vietnam, who had been forced to live in small cages and regularly had their bile removed from gall bladder for use in traditional medicine. This usually gives the bears both physical and mental injuries.

More than 1,200 moon bears still live in cages at 430 farms across Vietnam, according to official figures as of early 2015. While bear bile farming has been banned in Vietnam since 2005, a legal loophole allows farmers to keep bears they have possessed since before 2007.