Meet Tu Do: her rescue just ended bear bile in Son La province, Vietnam
Tu Do, the bear, was voluntarily surrendered by her owner to a sanctuary after World Animal Protection negotiations.
The exploitation of captive bears for their bile is one of the worst examples of animal cruelty in the world today
World Animal Protection, Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV), and FOUR PAWS came together with local authorities to rescue Tu Do, a female bear so she can live out the rest of her life at a sanctuary aptly called “BEAR SANCTUARY” in Ninh Binh, Vietnam.
Tu Do was the last remaining bile bears in Son La and the province is now the 41st bear bile free province in Vietnam.
A new home forever
In Vietnam, while it is legal to ‘keep’ bears, it’s illegal to extract bile from live animals or to breed bears for commercial purposes. But sadly, this law is poorly enforced, and there are still hundreds of captive bears living in bear bile farms in Vietnam.
World Animal Protection has been working with the government to register and microchip all bears living on farms across the country and monitoring them with inspections. This is to ensure that no new bears enter captivity for the bile industry.
Tu Do was kept as a pet for 20 years in a close and narrow cage with limited sunlight. During monitoring trips, we spoke with the man who owned her about the bear’s welfare, and the bear sanctuary. A few days after our last visit, the bear's owner called the local ranger and said he wanted his bear to come to the sanctuary.
Maya Pastakia World Animal Protection International Campaign Manager, Wildlife. Not Medicine, said:
“Bear bile farming is illegal in Vietnam, but this hasn’t stopped the suffering of hundreds of bears who still live a torturous life in captivity in Vietnam for their bile, which is used in Traditional Asian Medicine. Tu Do, the bear, was living in a tiny cage on a farm and will have had her bile extracted at some point which involves a painful process of extracting bile from the gallbladders of living bears for use in some Traditional Asian Medicines.
“Bile bears suffer extreme psychological and physical distress and are caged in cramped and inhumane conditions, in cages not much larger than a telephone booth and without natural sunlight. We are calling on the Vietnamese government to close all remaining legal loopholes to end the cruel and illegal practice of bear bile farming. Forever.”
Barbara van Genne, responsible for Wild Animal Rescue & Advocacy at FOUR PAWS, said:
“Tu Do is the 50th bear FOUR PAWS has rescued in Vietnam, and we are happy that we can give her a chance at a new life. With her rescue we also ended bear farming in Son La province.
“The rescue went well and Tu Do arrived safely at our BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh. She was calm, friendly, and curious. The health check revealed she has gallstones, liver, and dental disease, which our expert team will now treat accordingly as her rehabilitation to a better life begins. Tu Do joins the 39 current other residents of our sanctuary. If she shows interest in potential companions, we will try socialising her with them in the future. Tu Do will now live the life she deserves.”
Ending the suffering of bears
We’ve been working with ENV for over a decade to help end the suffering and exploitation of captive bears in Vietnam. Together, we’re working to ensure no new bears end up in captivity. They should remain in the wild, where they belong.
We are helping the government microchip captive bears so that those illegally taken from the wild can be more easily identified, confiscated, and taken to sanctuaries.
Bui Thi Ha, Vice Director, Education for Nature – Vietnam (ENV) said:
“We are delighted to see the transfer of the last bear from Son La province this Saturday. Not only because this will be the next bile bear free province, but because it signifies broader progress across Vietnam. It shows when the government is determined to put an end to this industry, they can achieve it. ENV would like to congratulate the Son La authorities and urge other remaining bear farming provinces to follow suit.”