Vietnam: FOUR PAWS rescues last bile bear of Son La province

Vietnam: FOUR PAWS rescues last bile bear of Son La province

Capital Hanoi remains bear farming lynchpin despite declining demand for bear bile


December 13, 2021 – On December 11th, FOUR PAWS, the global animal welfare organization, rescued its 50th bear in Vietnam, and the last bile bear in Son La Province. 

A female Asiatic black bear named "Tu Do" was rescued from Son La province in northwest Vietnam and brought her to its BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh.  After her rescue, there are no remaining bile bears in Son La province. Prior to her rescue, 21-year-old Tu Do was kept in a small cage in a private backyard and abused for painful bile extraction in the past.

While production and demand for bear bile has been declining in recent years in Vietnam, 324 bears still suffer on bear farms. Capital Hanoi remains the bear farming hotspot, with 158 bears kept in cruel conditions. FOUR PAWS is calling on the Vietnamese government to better enforce regulations on bear keeping and to end bear farming for good in Hanoi and across the country.

In a one-day rescue mission, the FOUR PAWS team made its way from BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh to the province of Son La and examined Tu Do before the departure. After a six-hour journey, she has reached her new home, where she will receive all the care she needs.

“The rescue of Tu Do went very smoothly. When we arrived she was calm, friendly, and curious. She’s a very small bear and a little underweight. The health check revealed gallstones, which means she will need surgery to remove her gallbladder in the future, moderate liver disease and dental disease. We will now provide dedicated care for her and begin her rehabilitation to a better life.”

Emily Lloyd, Animal Manager at BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh

The rescue of Tu Do is the 20th bear rescue action carried out by FOUR PAWS in Vietnam. Since the opening of its BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh in Vietnam in 2017, the animal welfare organization has rescued 50 bears, mostly from bear farms but also from wildlife trafficking. As a result of having been exposed previously to poor conditions and cruelty, sadly, ten bears have died over the years.

Vietnam’s bear bile consumers willing to switch to alternatives

The decline of bear farming in Vietnam affects bear bile production, but demand is an important factor as well when it comes to the abuse of bears for their bile. According to a new study on the link between the end of bear farming and consumer choice, bear bile consumers in Vietnam are willing to switch to non-animal-based products for the treatment of ailments, including herbal alternatives and Western medicine, which are cheap and easy to acquire. Therefore, the reduced availability of bear bile and the eventual closure of all bear farms is not expected to lead to a rise in demand for poaching and wild bear bile in Vietnam.

Asiatic black bears are native to Vietnam and on the brink of local extinction because of poaching and the illegal wildlife trade where demand for their parts and derivatives remains.

Bear farming lynchpin Hanoi

Since Vietnam banned the sale and possession of bear bile in 2005, the number of bears kept on bear farms has decreased from 4,300 to 324 in October 2021. While Son La province is the 40th out of 63 provinces to be bile bear farm-free, capital Hanoi remains the country’s bear farming hotspot.

“Many provinces have been working hard to end bear farming, but Hanoi province has shown only very little improvement, reflecting poorly upon overall efforts of the government. The outcomes of the new bear bile consumer study emphasizes even further that there is no reason at all to continue this cruel practice of animal suffering. We urge the government to do everything in its power to reach their goal of ending bear farming for good by 2025,” says Barbara van Genne, responsible for Wild Animal Rescue & Advocacy at FOUR PAWS.

Overview of FOUR PAWS help for bears in Vietnam

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. 

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