Microchip project enables new life for farmed bear

Jul 31, 2009

The sedated bear is carefully removed from the farm. He is now on his way to a well-run sanctuary

An Asiatic black bear held illegally on a bear bile farm is on his way to a sanctuary today, thanks to a WSPA-funded microchipping and monitoring program.

In 2005, the Vietnamese government banned the extraction of bile from bears in farms and outlawed the trading of bile products, a major step towards closing this unnecessary industry for good.

Over the next two years, WSPA and Wildlife at Risk microchipped bears already in farms to ensure that any subsequent additions – bears found to be stolen from the wild and brought into the bile trade – could be identified. Thanks to the new laws, the microchipped bear population would no longer suffer the painful process of bile extraction.

This male bear, found in a small farm in Yen Bai by the Forest Protection Department (FPD), was definitely not part of the microchipped bear population.

Checked as part of a WSPA-funded monitoring program, FPD discovered he had no microchip and had clearly been introduced after the 2005 legislation.

Under Vietnamese law, any illegal bears that are detected can be removed by the government and taken to rescue centers run by the state or welfare organizations, such as Animals Asia Foundation (AAF) and Free the Bears.

Unable to re-adapt to the wild after the confines of a tiny cage, this 130kg bear has been confiscated into the care of the AAF and will be housed at their rescue center at Tam Dao for the rest of his life.

Today’s confiscation demonstrates the long term commitment shown by WSPA supporters to the cause of ending bear farming in Vietnam.

Decisive action sends a message

The Forest Protection Department discovered the bear, held in this cage, during WSPA-funded monitoring work

Chris Gee, WSPA’s End Bear Farming campaign manager, said: “I am delighted that Yen Bai FPD have shown such decisive leadership in this case.”

The Yen Bai farm owner now faces a fine of 10 million Vietnam Dong (US$561); a significant penalty to help deter farmers from attempting to expand their operations.

Chris continues: “Making sure that this bear was removed and the owner fined sends a clear message to any farmer who would consider purchasing a wild bear, but sadly we know that this is not the only illegal bear we will find on the farms.”

Working for bears through challenging times

Despite the government’s commitment to phasing out bear farming, the sad reality in Vietnam today is that the enforcement of laws against bear bile needs to be strengthened. There have been repeated reports of continued bile extraction from captive bears despite the ban.

As well as working with the national FPD to develop and implement an effective model for continuing to monitor farms, province-by-province, WSPA also partners with a local organization, Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV).

ENV, with the support of WSPA donors, encourages the Vietnamese people to report illegal advertisements for bear bile and collects public pledges not to use bear bile.

Advertisements that were commonplace five years ago are now a rare sight, and reports to ENV’s ‘wildlife crime hotline’ demonstrate strong public support for ending this cruel trade.

“Not all bear farmers have got the message that this industry is being ended. But with the authorities taking strong and quick action, WSPA is delighted to support their work. I hope other provinces will follow this example and act against those purchasing bears for a lifetime of suffering,” says Chris.

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