3 moon bears freed after nearly 20 years behind bars in Vietnam

By Staff reporters   November 7, 2017 | 11:31 am GMT+7

The bears were being held in tight cages and farmed for their bile.

Three moon bears were handed over by families in the northern province of Ninh Binh to activists on Monday, promising the animals a new life after nearly two decades in captivity.

The animals, two of them female, have been kept in small cages since they were cubs weighing just five kilograms (11 lbs) each. Now they are around 100 kilograms but in poor health, local media reported.

Initial examinations found they had received multiple injections to extract bear bile, causing their livers and gallbladders to become infected, said a Nguoi Lao Dong (Laborer) report.

Members of the animal welfare organization Four Paws International have transported the animals to Ninh Binh Bear Sanctuary, 130 kilometers (80 miles) south of Hanoi. The bears will receive treatment for around three weeks before being released into a semi-wild environment.

Demand for bear bile stems from a misconception that it can be used as a medicinal tonic, and the placebo  is popular in many Asian countries. Vietnam banned commercial bear bile extraction in 2005, but bile farming remains a problem after more than a decade.

In July, the Vietnam Forestry Administration signed an agreement with the Hong Kong-based animal welfare organization Animals Asia to shut down all notorious bear bile farms and free the remaining 1,000 bears stuck in captivity in Vietnam over the next three years.

Animals Asia has rescued 186 bears in Vietnam since 2008 when it set up a sanctuary in Tam Dao National Park, 70km (43 miles) north of Hanoi.