Vietnam corporation accused of 'ruthless exploitation' of bears for entertainment

By Phan Anh   March 14, 2019 | 05:44 pm PT
Vietnam corporation accused of 'ruthless exploitation' of bears for entertainment
A chained and muzzled bear sits during a circus show at Long Phu Corporation in Nha Trang in central Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Animals Asia
A Vietnamese corporation has been accused of exploiting moon bears to entertain tourists near the resort town of Nha Trang, although it said its bears are kept under 'proper' care.

Hong Kong-based charity Animals Asia says the Long Phu Corporation kept juvenile moon bears in "deplorable conditions" and "forced (them) to perform bizarre tricks for the entertainment of tourists."

The bears are malnourished, muzzled on stage and used for selfies off stage, before being returned to "tiny, barren" cages hidden from visitors.

"This is the most ruthless exploitation of a protected species. Clearly no thought is given to the welfare of the bears as they endure an utterly miserable existence," Nguyen Tam Thanh, Animals Asia Animal Welfare Department Manager, said in a statement.

Vuong Cam Van, a communications officer from Long Phu, told VnExpress International that the company does use bears for circus performances. "But the animals receive proper care." 

Van said Animals Asia was "overreacting" with its accusations.

The mouth muzzle, she claimed, was "to protect the audience as the bears' performances took place in open space."

Vietnamese law does not prohibit animal performances, but certain species like bears, macaques and elephants are protected from exploitation, including poaching and trading for profit, according to the charity.

Dave Neale, Animals Asia Animal Welfare Director, said that where the bears had come from need to be investigated.

The organization is also petitioning the Vietnamese government to ban all wild animal performances. It aims to collect 100,000 and send the petition to the tourism ministry.

Earlier this week, five moon bears from the southern provinces of Dong Nai and Binh Duong were rescued from captivity by non-profit conservation group Four Paws Viet. They had been held in cages for many years for bile extraction.

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 were still allowed to keep them.

According to data from the Forest Protection Department, nearly 800 bears are still held captive in farms across the Vietnam, while the number of bears in the wild has dropped to just a few hundred individuals.

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