Wildlife protection group frees 200th bear from Vietnam bile farm

By Phuong Nguyen   October 23, 2018 | 11:02 pm PT
Wildlife protection group frees 200th bear from Vietnam bile farm
Doctors perform a health check on a bear before releasing it from 17 years of captivity in Cao Bang on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Animals Asia
Animals Asia has rescued a moon bear held captive for nearly two decades for its bile in the northern province of Cao Bang.

The rescue Tuesday raised the number of bears released from captivity by the Hong Kong-based animal welfare organization in Vietnam to 200 in the last 11 years.

The animal, weighing over 200 kilograms (440 pounds), was held captive in an iron cage and lived in abysmal conditions in a backyard.

The farmer who had held it for the last 17 years earlier informed Animals Asia about his desire to hand it over.

Volunteers from the organization used a blowdart to anesthetize the bear and doctors carried out a general heath check, finding the animal was suffering from tooth decay, gall bladder damage and obesity.

It has been moved to a bear rescue center in Tam Dao, around six hours from Cao Bang, where it is expected to be isolated for 45 days before being released into a semi-natural environment.

Vietnam banned commercial bear bile extraction in 2005, but more than a decade later it remains a problem.

Animals Asia has signed an agreement with the Vietnam Administration of Forestry to shut down all bear bile farms in the country and free the remaining 800 bears in captivity by 2022.

The agreement is expected to finally close the loophole, committing the Vietnamese government to ensuring no bears are allowed to be kept by private households.

Tuan Bendixsen, Animals Asia’s Vietnam director, told VnExpress International there are still some people keeping bears for their bile and who have refused to release them.

However, there have been positive signs in recent years with many volunteering to hand over their bears to the activists, he said.

The trading of bile extracted from live bears has been declining. A survey by the organization last year found 90 percent of traditional doctors in Vietnam saying they do not prescribe bear bile and "No" to bear bile extraction.

Vietnam is home to the Asian black bear and 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 been used for long as a remedy in traditional Chinese medicine.

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