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Bears rescued from a bile farm in Vietnam

There's a market in Asia for the digestive fluids of bears for use in traditional medicine. To feed the demand, thousands of black bears in Vietnam and China are held in small cages and drained of their bile via catheter or a hole in the abdomen.  

Animals Asia via Reuters

Veterinarians conduct a health check on a moon bear at a bear bile farm before it was transported to a rescue center in Vietnam's southern Binh Duong province in this handout photo taken November 29 and released on Monday. According to Animals Asia, 14 bears had been rescued from the bear bile trade in a farm in southern Vietnam and transported to a bear rescue centre in Tam Dao, near Hanoi. The bears show significant health problems including missing and maimed limbs, indicating that they may have been captured with bear traps in the wild. One of the four owners, Mr Nguyen Ngoc Tien, decided to give up his share of the farm to Animals Asia. This is the first time in Vietnam that a bear farm has given up a significant number of bears without any demand for compensation. Across Asia, an estimated 14,000 moon bears are being held in captivity on farms and milked for their bile because it's believed to be effective in the practice of traditional Asian medicine despite the availability of inexpensive and effective herbal and synthetic alternatives.

AP reports: Nineteen bears were recently rescued from such an operation in Vietnam.

In the 1980s, China began promoting bear farms as a way to discourage poaching.

The bears were housed in small cages, and the green bitter fluid was sucked from their gall bladders using crude catheters, sometimes creating pus-filled abscesses or internal bile leakage. Many bears die slowly from infections or liver ailments, including cancer.

The idea caught on in Vietnam and elsewhere as demand grew alongside the region's increasing wealth. Bear bile products are also illegally smuggled into Chinatowns worldwide. An informal survey by the World Society for the Protection of Animals found 75 percent of stores visited in Japan selling bear bile products, followed by 42 percent in South Korea. In the U.S. and Canada, it was about 15 percent.

 

Animals Asia via Reuters

A moon bear is seen inside a cage at a bear bile farm before it was transported to a rescue center in Vietnam's southern Binh Duong province.

Animals Asia via Reuters

A moon bear is seen inside a cage at a bear bile farm before it was transported to a rescue center in Vietnam's southern Binh Duong province.

Last year, a farm in northern Vietnam was raided for selling bile to busloads of South Koreans, who watched it being extracted as part of their sightseeing tours. Some of the farms in Vietnam are owned by South Koreans and Taiwanese.

"They're more organized and bigger. They're run like a business now," said Bendixsen. "It's part of a package tour."

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