BOSTON - MARCH 8, 2019-- Yesterday, FOUR PAWS, the international animal welfare organization, officially opened its BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh. Located in the Ninh Binh Province of Vietnam, the sanctuary is currently home to 12 bears, including 10 former bile bears. “Bile bear” is a term used for any bear used for the production and extraction of stomach bile, an ingredient in some traditional medicines.
Although the possession, sale and consumption of bear bile has been banned in Vietnam since 2005, it is rarely enforced and the keeping of the animals is still permitted. Approximately 800 animals still suffer on 250 bear farms.
FOUR PAWS has asked the Vietnamese government to close the remaining bear farms and place the suffering animals in reputable sanctuaries. BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh will ultimately house 100 bears.
With the opening of the sanctuary, an important milestone was met the fight against the illegal keeping of bile bears. Although FOUR PAWS has rescued a dozen bears from cruel keeping in just two years, there is still much to do.
"In 35 of 58 provinces, roughly 800 bears are suffering on farms that are not species-appropriate. They are completely neglected, malnourished and suffering from the worst forms of torture. By the end of the year we hope to provide a species-appropriate home for over 40 bears. We appeal to the Vietnamese government to ensure the closure of these bear farms. It is high time to end the suffering of bile bears once and for all.”
Heli Dungler, FOUR PAWS President and Founder
But despite the celebration of the opening ceremony, it was overshadowed by tragedy.
FOUR PAWS originally planned to rescue seven bile bears from three different bear farms in the Dong Nai Province (located in southern Vietnam.) just this week. The animal welfare organization hoped to bring the bears to BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh, but tragic circumstances thwarted the plan.
Within a week, on the same farm, four bears died. The cause of death has yet to be determined.
"Despite current legislation, terrible incidents such as these often have no consequences for the bear farmers. These bears are dying in cages, even though there are adequate sanctuaries for them. FOUR PAWS calls for a full investigation into their cause of death.”
Heli Dungler, FOUR PAWS President and Founder
BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh will encompass 24+ acres and provide homes for 100 bears when the final phase of construction is complete. Locals and tourists from all over the world can visit and learn how these former bile bears will regain their natural instincts and live in a bear-friendly environment. The first visitors were impressed by the spacious open-air enclosures with ponds, trees and lush greens, climbing and hiding places.
The bear sanctuary is not only a new home for former bile bears, it is also an educational and awareness center. The sanctuary, which was built in accordance with the most current standards, has its own veterinary animal clinic, two bear houses, a quarantine station and four outdoor enclosures (https://youtu.be/eXFecmA6QGQ).
Bear bile has been considered a remedy in traditional medicine for several thousand years. It thought to cure eye diseases, hematomas, digestive disorders and other discomforts. Although renowned experts doubt the effects of these medicines, and herbal and synthetic alternatives are available, bear bile is still sought-after by customers in Asian countries.
In addition to its sanctuary, FOUR PAWS has a petition circulating urging the Vietnamese government to take action to close illegally operating bile bear farms and free bears suffering in deplorable conditions. You can sign the petition by visiting: www.saddestbears.com/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. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS 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