17 years in a dark, windowless basement

Rescued Bears Spent 17 Years in a Dark Basement

FOUR PAWS rescues two former bile bears in Vietnam


MARCH 24, 2021 –Yesterday, FOUR PAWS rescued two Asiatic black bears, Xuan and Mo, from exceptionally cruel keeping conditions in Son La province in north-western Vietnam. Xuan was kept in a tiny, filthy cage in complete darkness in the basement of a clothing shop reportedly since 2004, when he was still a cub. It is unclear how long Mo had been there as well.

The FOUR PAWS team has rescued many bears from inappropriate conditions before but were left speechless by the cruelty they encountered on this particular mission. The bears had been living in complete darkness for years – 17 years in Xuan’s case. Xuan, male, and Mo, female, only saw artificial light when they were fed or had to endure the excruciating bile extraction procedure. Even though the production and trade of bear bile is forbidden by law in Vietnam, the practice still exists. Despite demand for bear bile declining, up to 372 bears in Vietnam are still suffering in cruel conditions on bear farms or in private keeping.

The basement where Xuan and Mo were kept was so dark that the FOUR PAWS team had to use flashlights and headlamps to even see the bears. Their rusty cages were small and dirty, and there was no access to fresh air and poor ventilation in the windowless basement.  Both bears were medically checked and cleared for the 9-hour return journey to BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh, run by FOUR PAWS. Xuan and Mo will now receive all the care they need to recover from the ordeal they had to suffer.

“It was the first time we have rescued bears from an environment without any natural light and only exposure to artificial light. Despite being exploited for their bile for years, in such horrible conditions, both Mo and Xuan were quite calm and unafraid when we arrived. The health checks for both bears revealed gallbladder disease due to multiple unsanitary and traumatic bile extraction processes carried out on the farm. In addition, Xuan is overweight, has liver disease and his teeth are in terrible condition. We will examine them more thoroughly at our sanctuary clinic and determine their best future care. Bears are very resilient, but it will be a long road to recovery nonetheless,” 

- Szilvia Kalogeropoulu, FOUR PAWS veterinarian responsible for the rescue and transfer of the two bears.

BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh: A species-appropriate home for rescued bears

FOUR PAWS helps brings an end to the suffering of the world’s saddest bears left in captivity. Our #SaveTheSaddestBears initiative takes place all over the world. Specifically, in Vietnam FOUR PAWS worked with local partners since 2017 to free as many bears as possible from their sad fate. The number of bears on bear farms in Vietnam has dramatically declined from approximately 936 in 2017 to 372 currently kept in private facilities.  

With its bear sanctuary in Ninh Binh, FOUR PAWS is supporting the Vietnamese government to end bile bear farming in Vietnam and provide a species-appropriate home for rescued bears. BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh is not only a safe home for former bile bears, it also serves as an education centre for wildlife conservation in Vietnam. Some of the 40 Asiatic black bears already living in the bear sanctuary were not only victims of cruel bile farming prior to their rescue, but also of illegal wildlife trafficking.

FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organization for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need, and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organization advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy, and understanding. FOUR PAWS’ sustainable campaigns and projects focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam, as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.fourpawsusa.org 

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