20 May 2020 – Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS successfully completed its first bear rescue of the year on May 20 in Vietnam. Following strict safety precautions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the organisation was able to transfer two female Asiatic black bears to its BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh in Northern Vietnam. Cuc and Nhai are approximately 18 years old and were kept in a private backyard their whole life. In Vietnam, bears in captivity are still illegally abused for their bile, which is used as a remedy in traditional medicine. Demand for bear bile for healing purposes is reportedly declining, yet, up to 400 bears in Vietnam are still living in cruel conditions on bear farms or in single keeping.
Coronavirus-related lockdowns and border closures have prevented FOUR PAWS from rescuing animals. However, a local FOUR PAWS team made the 60-kilometre journey from the bear sanctuary in Ninh Binh to nearby Ha Nam province, where the bears were kept in separate cages in a private backyard. Their former owner got the Asiatic black bears as cubs in 2002. FOUR PAWS was asked by the authorities to take over the bears after their owner gave them up voluntarily.
“The health checks went smoothly, Cuc and Nhai coped really well with the transport. Since arriving at the sanctuary, they enjoyed lots of cool showers which they really liked, as it’s so hot right now. They are now settling into the three-week quarantine where we will help them recover through our comprehensive veterinary treatment, provide a species-appropriate diet as well as an extensive enrichment programme,”
says FOUR PAWS vet Szilvia Kalogeropoulu, who carried out the rescue.
The experienced team at BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh will now provide Cuc and Nhai with all the care they need in order to adjust to the species-appropriate surroundings and regain their natural instincts.
Safety precautions in demanding times
Due to the ongoing pandemic, the FOUR PAWS team operated under strict safety precautions. “Everyone was wearing face masks, in addition to gloves which we always wear on rescues, and all people on-site tried to keep their distance from each other as much as they could. We follow similar regulations in our daily work at the sanctuary. Our vehicles were disinfected upon leaving the farm, and again back at the sanctuary,” says Emily Lloyd, Animal Manager at BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh. The sanctuary was recently reopened for small groups of visitors and guided tours. Temperature checks and wearing masks are compulsory before entering. “The bears are oblivious, as they should be, for them nothing has changed. Newly rescued bears are always placed in a three-week-quarantine to make sure they don’t transmit any diseases to the other bears,” says Lloyd. So far there are no reports that bears are susceptible to coronavirus infection.
Sanctuary for a total of 100 bears in Northern Vietnam
FOUR PAWS is working with local partners to free as many bears as possible from their sad fate. With BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh, FOUR PAWS is helping the Vietnamese government to close bear farms and end the cruel practice of bile extraction once and for all. Currently the sanctuary is undergoing building work to expand and once this is all completed, up to 100 rescued bears will be able to find a new home on ten hectares of land. Visitors can see how the 29 bears that have been rescued so far are living species-appropriate lives in spacious open-air enclosures with ponds, trees, climbing and hiding places. BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh is not only a safe home for former bile bears, it is also an awareness and education centre for wildlife conservation in Vietnam.