Hanoi holds over half of captive bears in Vietnam

By Gia Chinh   May 30, 2022 | 11:40 pm PT
Hanoi holds over half of captive bears in Vietnam
A bear in a cage in Hanoi's Phuc Tho District. Photo obtained by VnExpress
Out of the 294 bears held captive at private facilities in Vietnam, 149, or over 50 percent, are in Hanoi, according to World Animal Protection.

Gilbert Sape, global head of campaigning for non-profit World Animal Protection, on Tuesday said Phuc Tho District alone has 139 bears held captive in 21 facilities. In the past 17 years, the number of bears held captive in Vietnam has reduced from around 4,300 to 294, but Hanoi only saw a reduction of 10 bears, mainly because they died.

Hanoi is lagging behind other localities when it comes to freeing bears held captive for bile extraction, Sape said, adding that the city has not put in enough effort into resolving the issue.

World Animal Protection says keeping bear captive for bile extraction is a threat to both the species and ecosystem. Young bears born in small-scale captivity would be inbred, reducing their chance of survival. Bears raised in captivity also cannot live in the wild.

Previously on May 27, Hanoi’s environmental police arrested an owner who registered to keep bears in captivity in Phuc Tho District, along with 350 jars of bear bile. The owner now faces five years in prison.

Nguyen Xuan Tung, deputy head of the environmental police, said current regulations make monitoring bile extraction at such facilities difficult. It took the police a month to catch the owner red-handed, he added.

Pham Van Mau, head of the forest creature and resource conservation division under the Hanoi Forest Protection Department, said Phuc Tho has been raising wild animals in captivity since the 1990s. Bear sanctuaries were rare in the past, making it more difficult to solve the problem.

Hanoi aims to end the practice of keeping bears in captivity. In January, the Hanoi People’s Committee had requested its districts to monitor the situation better, especially Phuc Tho District.

Vietnam is a major hub for the illegal trade in wild animals, and bears are kept to drain the bile from their gall bladders as some people believe it could be used as traditional medicine.

The government banned commercial bear bile extraction in 2005, but farmers are still allow to keep their bears.

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