Moon Bears Rescued From Bile Farm

They were in cages with limited sunlight or ventilation.

Cintron, a previously rescued moon bear.
Cintron, a previously rescued moon bear.

Courtesy of Animals Asia

Two moon bears were rescued from a bile farm early Tuesday morning in Vietnam. Rescuers from animal welfare organization Animals Asia freed the two female bears who were believed to have spent years in captivity on the farm.

Moon bears are often kept in small cages in order to collect bile, a fat-digesting fluid found in many animals, including humans. Bear bile is sometimes used in traditional Chinese medicine. Although bear farming is illegal in Vietnam, limited enforcement has let the practice endure.

Very early in the morning, the rescue team arrived at the farm, just 65 kilometers (40 miles) from Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre in Tam Dao. The bears were kept in a shed with little sunlight or ventilation, according to rescuers.

moon bear on bile farm
The bears were kept in small cages on the farm.

Animals Asia

Rescuers named the bears Storm and Torrent in acknowledgment of the devastating floods that recently affected the area.

"The bears were held in a big brick barn. Inside it's dark, it's dank, it's very humid. It's oppressive actually. Oppressive is the perfect word for it," Bear and Vet Team Director Heidi Quine described the scene.

"And to think that these majestic creatures, who should be living in the complexity and beauty of the forest, have been living there, in Storm's case for perhaps seven years, and from what we know of Torrent, she's been living on the farm for 18 years. So to think that their spirits can survive so long in that kind of environment, it speaks to the courage and the tenacity of the bears."

The team live-streamed the rescue and returned to the sanctuary on Facebook Live.

Both bears were transferred from their farm cages under anesthetic and were given health checks on site.

Torrent, who the farmer said was Storm's mother, had fractured teeth which could have occurred from biting the cage bars due to stress, rescuers said. She may need root canals in order to save her teeth. Storm has reduced mobility with one of her feet and veterinarians aren't sure yet if it's a disability since birth or a fracture.

inside a bile farm
Inside the bile farm.

Animals Asia

Once back at the sanctuary, the bears were left to rest in their transport cages until they started to wake up. They'll spend 45 day in quarantine before being moved into dens with access to outdoor areas. Eventually they'll be integrated into the population of 200 rescued moon bears that live in the sanctuary.

Animals Asia signed an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the Vietnamese government in 2017 to completely end bear farming in the country. With the current sanctuary near capacity, the group is preparing to build a second facility in Vietnam in 2021 in order to rescue and care for hundreds of bears that still remain on bile farms throughout the country.

"It's always hard for our rescue team to go in and witness the conditions the bears are kept in, especially with the knowledge that some of the bears are held in these squalid barren cages for multiple decades," Alastair Binnie-Lubbock of Animals Asia tells Treehugger. "However our team is incredibly professional, focusses on the job and does everything within their power to rescue the bears with minimal stress for the animal."