Very heart-warming news out of Vietnam as the animal welfare non-profit Animals Asia has rescued five more bears from the cruel bile industry! The rescue team arrived in a small town in Vietnam’s southern province to rescue the five moon bears from a notorious bear bile farm. These sweet bears were most likely captured from the wild and have been held captive for at least 13 years, forced to live their lives in tiny cages so that their bile could be extracted for use as a traditional medicine. This extreme captivity, devoid of any stimulation or opportunity to express natural behaviors, left the bears traumatized and their bodies broken.

Once freed from their torture cages the five bears were transported 1,700km by truck to Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Center, where they can begin the healing process and long road to recovery. The physical and psychological condition of these bears is very critical, as after so many years of abuse rescued bears often suffer from numerous debilitating medical ailments and disabilities. The rescue team contains experienced veterinarians and vet nurses who always hope for the best, but have to be prepared for the worst.

Animals Asia Vietnam Director Tuan Bendixsen said: “As with many rescues, we have no information about the bears at present – not even their genders. But we know they have never received any health care in the last 13 years of extreme captivity and abuse. Repeated bile extraction takes a huge toll on the bears’ health and our team will be ready for anything. Our primary goal will be to get them out of cages which were never designed to be opened, keep them alive and get them back to our sanctuary where high-quality care can begin.” You can watch the bears’ rescue video here:

Bear bile farming is a huge problem in many countries throughout Asia, and reached a peak in Vietnam in 2005 when over 4,000 bears were kept around the country on private bile farms. Animals Asia has been working for twenty years to end the bear bile industry, and in July 2017 the years of campaigning finally succeeded in the signing of a landmark agreement between the non-profit and the Vietnamese government. According to the groundbreaking agreement the government of Vietnam will close every bear bile farm and send all the bears to sanctuary by 2022. Vietnam’s Traditional Medicine Association, which is a huge part of the problem, has also vowed to stop prescribing bear bile by 2020.

This agreement was a huge step in the right direction; however, with so many bears being held captive on bile farms it is a very long process to get them all to qualified sanctuaries. The latest figures from the Vietnamese government show the number of bears in private hands has now fallen to approximately 800. The five moon bears most recently rescued were voluntarily handed over by their owner with the help of the provincial Forest Protection Department.

Animals Asia Founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE said: “More and more farmers are beginning to realize that bear bile farming is finished in Vietnam. Demand for bile is plummeting as people learn of the cruelty behind every vial, while the government has made it clear the end of the industry is just a matter of time. For these five bears, the end of suffering cannot come soon enough. Now we have to get them home to our sanctuary where their new lives can begin.”

To date, Animals Asia has rescued 611 bears, mainly from bile farms in Vietnam and China. Over 170 bears currently live at the organization’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Center, the largest and oldest sanctuary for bears in the country. These five bears rescued recently are certainly very lucky, as their lives are about to improve monumentally.

Caretakers plan to introduce the bears to progressively larger spaces, slowly integrating them with other bears at the sanctuary. Before too long they will be able to roam large natural enclosures, where they can express their natural instincts and behaviors. Moon bears can live up to 30 years, and with these sweet darlings in such good hands they will enjoy many happy years under the sanctuary’s loving care.