23 May 2024

Five moon bears were rescued from an illegal bile extraction farm last Wednesday (February 22), in a joint effort between the Vietnam Administration of Forestry and Animals Asia to eradicate illegal bear bile farming in Vietnam by 2026.

The farm’s owner had contacted authorities to give up the bears and to end the operation in Phung Thuong commune on the outskirts of Hanoi, according to animal rescue group, Animals Asia.

The ages of the bears were unclear but Vietnamese authorities estimated that the bears had been living on the farm for 20 years.

In the wild, bears live for up to 30 years. However, in some cases, bears on the farms live for only five to 10 years before dying of infection, disease and malnutrition, according to Animals Asia’s Vietnam director Tuan Bendixen.

“When you put a bear in captivity like a small cage, it is going to create a lot of problems in terms of mental problems, and also in terms of the physical problems because the farm doesn’t know how to look after the bears properly,” he told Reuters.

“The bears are given inappropriate diet. And because of that, plus the frequent bile extraction as well and that creates a lot of problems for the bears”

The farming of bears for their bile is outlawed in Vietnam but it the practice is still persistent, fuelled by demand for bear-bile-enriched products from Asian tourists.

“Bear bile has been used in traditional medicine as a rubbing tonic. It’s also being used for treating other illnesses as well, even though there is no concrete proof that bear bile actually work in all the illnesses,” said Tuan. “And because of this huge demand of bear bile, that’s why we are seeing a lot of bears being kept on farms just for one purpose only – that is to extract for their bear bile.”

Digestive bile is forcibly extracted from the gallbladders of bears, to be sold on the black market for use in traditional medicine. In the old days, bile was taken from animals caught in the wild, but the dwindling number of bears forced a change and now farmers have resorted to catching cubs and keeping them in cages. Often dehydrated and suffering from multiple diseases, many have malignant tumors that ultimately kill them.

For now, the rescued bears nicknamed “Chronos”, “Dawn”, “Noon”, “Twilight,” and “Midnight” have been transported to a sanctuary in the hopes that they will be able to live out their remaining years in peace.

By Reuters