Minu the bear, in her cage prior to being rescued

Lang Son province now ‘bear farm-free’ after remaining three bears rescued

Press release

Three captive Asiatic bears have been rescued from the horrific abuse of bear bile farming in Lang Son province in North Vietnam. The exploitation of captive bears for their bile is one of the worst examples of animal cruelty in the world today.

The three bears were the last remaining bile bears in Lang Son and the province is now the 40th bear-free province in Vietnam.

World Animal Protection, Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV) and Animals Asia Foundation came together with local authorities for the rescue to ensure that the three bears could live out the rest of their lives at a sanctuary run by Animals Asia Foundation in Vinh Phuc, 60 km northwest of Hanoi.

Originally named Mila, Minu and Misa by their owner, the bears have now been renamed by Animals Asia Foundation to represent their new cruelty-free lives, and at the sanctuary they will go by Hy vọng (meaning ‘hope’), Tương lai (meaning ‘future’), and Vui (meaning ‘joy’).

World Animal Protection has been working with the government to register and microchip all bears living on farms across the country and has been monitoring them with inspections since 2006. This is to ensure that no new bears enter captivity for the bile industry. Any bears found without registration papers or microchips are confiscated and transferred to a government rescue centre or a non-government organisation sanctuary.

These three bears were initially identified during a microchipping trip in November 2019. One female bear was discovered to be illegal as she did not have a microchip and the authorities ordered her to be confiscated. The owner chose to voluntarily surrender her two remaining bears to the sanctuary after being persuaded by the monitoring team.

Hy vọng, Tương lai, and Vui are each around 21 years old and were kept in very poor conditions in small cages with steel bars, with a lack of natural sunlight. Their cages measured 1.5 metres wide and 1.8 metres high.

Two of the bears are missing a paw and, according to the bear owner, the paws were already severed when they purchased the bears from a trader. It is believed they were caught in traps in the wild when they were only cubs.

The rescue took place on Friday, 25 June when the three bears were transferred onto a truck and driven to the sanctuary. The transportation went smoothly, and they are now settling into their new surroundings where they will live a life free of cruelty and suffering.

The good news comes after the rescue of Cam the bear from a bear bile farm in the Hai Phong province in April.

Maya Pastakia, Global Campaign Manager – Wildlife, Not Medicine, at World Animal Protection said:

“Bear bile farming is illegal in Vietnam, but this hasn’t stopped the suffering of the remaining hundreds of bears who still live a torturous life in captivity for their bile.

“These bears were kept in tiny cages - not much larger than a telephone booth – for as long as 21 years. While they are the ‘lucky ones’ who are now free from cruelty, the scars from their extreme physical and psychological suffering will last their lifetime.

“The government of Vietnam must close all remaining legal loopholes for good to end the barbaric practice of bear bile farming.”

Ha Bui, Vice Director at Education for Nature Vietnam said:

“Lang Son province gains the title of Vietnam's 40th bear bile-free province, and stands as a good example of how law enforcement agencies should take decisive action to end bear farming in their jurisdictions. ENV encourages the 23 remaining provinces with bear bile farms to take proactive steps to end this outdated industry, and in particular, ENV calls on Hanoi - Vietnam's capital city and the country's biggest hotspot for bear bile farming - to set the necessary example and end Vietnam's bear bile farming once and for all.

Bear bile farming is not only cruel and the cause of horrific stress and suffering to animals, but it also poses a negative reputational risk to Vietnam.

For over 15 years, World Animal Protection and other partnering NGOs have worked with the Vietnamese government, fighting to end the cruel practice of bear bile farming and protect the small population of bears remaining in the wild. Collective efforts have resulted in over a 90% reduction in the number of bile bears in Vietnam, from 4,300 bears recorded in 2005 to 346 bears on farms today.


Notes to editors: 

  • Images and video available here.
  • Read World Animal Protection’s report, Cruel Cures about bear bile farming here.
  • Authorities in bear bile provinces should encourage local bear owners to surrender their bears and punish those who continue to break the law. Bold actions will send a clear message that bear bile farming has no place in Vietnam, now or in the future.
  • Bear bile is believed to treat abscesses, haemorrhoids, epilepsy and cysts. The suffering is wholly unjustified as herbal and synthetic alternatives are all readily available. The bear bile industry has led to poaching of wild bears over the past 36 years with poaching leading to a sharp decline in the numbers of bears in the wild in Asia. 
  • World Animal Protection is committed to ending the exploitation of bears in the bear bile industry, and to protect wild bears from a lifetime of suffering in captivity. Our work includes:
    • Joining with partners, including governments, global bodies, local partners and individuals, to stop bears being exploited and to create lasting change
    • Strengthening laws, policies, monitoring and enforcement to ensure that bears are protected from all forms of bile extraction and exploitation
    • Raising awareness of alternatives to bear bile, including herbal and synthetic products, which are readily available, affordable and effective
    • Working with local organisations to urge governments to live up to their international commitments to protect bears and other wild animals.

These bears were kept in tiny cages - not much larger than a telephone booth – for as long as 21 years. While they are the ‘lucky ones’ who are now free from cruelty, the scars from their extreme physical and psychological suffering will last their lifetime.