Asian black bears freed after 20 years in captivity

By Sen    May 13, 2020 | 04:28 pm GMT+7
Two female Asian black bears bought as cubs near the Lao border have been freed from captivity in northern Vietnam.
One of two bears that are handed over by a farmer in the northern Vinh Phuc Province to Animals Asia on May 12, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.

One of two bears that are handed over by a farmer in the northern Vinh Phuc Province to Animals Asia on May 12, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.

A Vietnamese farmer in Vinh Yen Town in Vinh Phuc Province had bought the bears when they were cubs weighting about eight kilograms each in the central province of Nghe An near the border with Laos in 2000.

This means they were "almost certainly smuggled from across the border," said Heidi Quine, vet team director who headed the rescue effort by Animals Asia Foundation on Tuesday.

The owner confessed that he'd only stopped extracting their bile three years ago, because he could no longer bear to see their pain.

Quine also said during the Facebook livestream of the rescue operation that bear bile prices have dropped in recent years because more people are finding the truth about bile extraction, which involves a lot of cruelty. Worse still, the bile is also contaminated with blood and pus.

The farmer voluntarily turned Florence and Clara, as Animals Asia named the bears, over to the foundation, hoping they will be well taken care of for the rest of their lives.

The bears were kept in a dark area in iron grill cages. The vets anesthetized the bears and gave them a clinical examination before transferring them into a truck which took them to the foundation's bear sanctuary about 14 kilometers away in the same province.

Two female bears Florence and Clara are given honey before rescuers remove them from their cages at a farm in the northern Vinh Phuc Province, May 12, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.

Two female bears Florence and Clara are given honey before rescuers remove them from their cages at a farm in the northern Vinh Phuc Province, May 12, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.

Rachel Sanki, resident veterinary surgeon at Animals Asia, said both "girls" have very bad teeth, with a lot of cavity.

"Clara has some joint issues on her right elbow and left knee, Florence is missing a lot of fur and has itching problems," she said.

They both are quite thin, with Florence weighing 100 kilograms and Clara about 150 kilograms, which is not a major concern, but they will be given more real food to rebuild their strength, she added.

The two have been admitted to a standard 45-day quarantine at the rescue center during which they will receive full health checks. The quarantining seeks to prevent other bears from getting infected with diseases, if any.

The bears were named after British nurse Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing during the 19th century and Clara Barton who founded the American Red Cross in order to honor the frontline medical workers at the Covid-19 fight.

Animal Asia has rescued 216 bears to date since 2007. Since the social distancing restrictions were eased in Vietnam in late April, the foundation has rescued five Asian black bears and rehabilitated them at the center.

The Vinh Phuc facility is currently home to 188 bears.

The foundation has signed a memorandum of understanding with Vietnam Administration of Forestry and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development which aims to free all captivated bears in the entire country between 2017 and 2022.

The latest update is that more than 600 bears are still kept in farms, while only a few hundred exist in the wild. Most of the bears in captivity were exploited for commercial purposes and the only time they got out of the cage was when bile extraction took place. Bears are also used for "ornamental" or entertainment purposes, the foundation says.

Vietnam banned commercial bear bile extraction in 2005, but farmers who owned bears prior to the ban are still allowed to keep them.

 
 
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