Earlier this month, an animal rights group out of Hong Kong made five moon bears very happy. The bears had been in captivity for more than 21 years on a bile farm in Vietnam. The bears were among more than 10,000 that are being held throughout Asia on these “bear bile farms.” Bear bile is used in traditional Asian medicine, and the animals are held in poor conditions so that their bile can be extracted from their gall bladders.
In addition to moon bears, sun bears and the Asian black bear also call Vietnam home. These animals are also used for bile extraction.
The more recently rescued bears were held in concrete cells enclosed with rusty bars. The animals’ teeth were in very poor conditions from years of horrible diet and trying to bite through their cages. Once rescued, the bears, which are listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union of Conservation of Nature, were transported to Tam Dao National Park’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre. Experts believe that the rescued bears will need a good amount of both physical and psychological care to overcome the many years of trauma they suffered on the farm.
While the rescue of the moon bears is certainly a victory for animal rights activists, the horrible practice of bile farming throughout Asia will only be eradicated if the government works with other organizations to do more. Animal Asia, the group responsible for the recent rescue, has already made a tremendous step with the Vietnamese government.
Last year, Animal Asia made an agreement with authorities to rescue roughly 800 captive bears who were still on bile farms. To date, they’ve managed to rescue 177 animals. That’s a great start, as there were around 4,000 bears on farms in 2005 when bear bile extraction first became illegal. The agreement made between the organization and the government stipulated that all of the remaining captive bears in the country would be freed by 2020.