Three bears freed from captivity in central Vietnam

By Minh Nga   June 1, 2019 | 10:23 pm PT
Three bears in Nghe An Province have been released from illegal captivity and moved to a rescue center.

The Education for Nature - Vietnam (ENV), Vietnam’s first non-governmental organization focused on the conservation of nature and the protection of the environment, saved three bears from their cages in a house in Nghe An’s Quynh Luu District on Thursday.

The bears have been sent to the Ninh Binh Bear Rescue Center run by Four Paws, an international animal welfare organization, near Hanoi.

ENV discovered the case in March thanks to stories from people in the neighborhood. The organization then contacted local authorities, who found that the three bears were being raised in cages without legal registration. Officials then decided to give some time for the family to give up the animals on their own.

Yet when the team from ENV and local rangers arrived to take the bears this week, they still encountered "fierce opposition," the organization said in a report on its website.

"These violations are very serious and a major challenge for the local authorities. The authorities need to strictly enforce the law in all cases to ensure strictness and the sense of deterrence, prevent crimes as well as promote the termination of illegal bear confinement in Vietnam," said Bui Thi Ha, ENV deputy director.

One of the three capitve bears rescued by the Education for Nature - Vietnam (ENV) in Vietnams central province of Nghe An. Photo by ENV

A photo by Education for Nature-Vietnam shows one of the three bears it has rescued from captivity in Nghe An Province.

Nghe An, which shares a border with Laos, has been infamous as a leading locality for capturing bears and extracting their bile.

The province is also a hub for smuggling of wildlife products, including ivory, rhino horns, tiger parts and pangolin scales, according to ENV.

It estimates that Vietnam has 700 captive bears. Most of the owners claim that they are keeping the bears because they "adore" them and want to "preserve" them. In Vietnam, if the bears are registered with the authorities, people are allowed to keep them. But it has been found that bears are actually raised to extract their bile.

The Forest Protection Department said the number of bears in the wild in Vietnam has dropped to just a few hundred individuals.

Vietnam is home to both the moon bear, also known as the Asian black bear, and the sun bear, both listed as vulnerable species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

The extraction of bile from living bears is illegal in parts of Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, where it has for long been used as a remedy in traditional Chinese medicine.

Vietnam banned commercial bear bile extraction in 2005, but more than a decade later, it remains a problem as farmers who owned bears prior to the ban are still allowed to keep them.

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