Animal welfare charity Animals Asia said it has added another bear house to its rescue center in northern Vietnam.
The new double bear house, opened on Wednesday and featuring two semi-natural enclosures, can bring in 40 more bears to join the 161 now living at the center in Tam Dao National Park of Vinh Phuc Province, 75 kilometers (47 miles) north of Hanoi, Animals Asia said in a statement.
Once in full capacity, the facility can save and rehabilitate just a fifth of the total bears held for bile farming across the Southeast Asian nation. While bear bile farming has been banned in Vietnam since 2005, a legal loophole allows farmers to keep bears they have possessed prior to 2007.
Two bears play at the sanctuary. Photo courtesy of Vietnam Bear Rescue Center.
The new building is part of a project to expand the world-class bear sanctuary, which finally sees the facility reach its maximum size allocated by the Vietnamese government, Animals Asia said.
"Today marks the beginning of a new hope for 40 bears somewhere in Vietnam who desperately need our help," Jill Robinson, Animals Asia’s Founder and CEO said in a statement. "As soon as the authorities can convince more farmers to give up their long-suffering bears, we'll be there to save them and bring them to their new lives here free of pain and suffering.”
The semi-natural enclosures on an area of over 5,600 square meters (60,000 square feet) would provide open, grassy spaces to help bears recover after long-term suffering at bear bile farms.
Last Friday, the sanctuary welcomed two moon bears kept in captivity at a farm for more than a decade in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai.
Animals Asia has rescued almost 600 bears, including 177 in Vietnam. Most of the rescued animals had to live in small cages and regularly had their bile removed.
In 2005 bear bile farming in Vietnam peaked with over 4,000 bears in captivity, but the numbers have since dwindled to around 1,000 now as bears have been rescued or died, Animals Asia said.