Two bears kept in basement cages for 17 YEARS given home in Vietnam

Out of the darkness: Two bears who were kept in basement cages for 17 YEARS and only saw artificial light during cruel bile extractions are given a bright new home in Vietnam

  • Two Asiatic bears were rescued from an illegal ‘bile farm’ in Vietnam after living for 17 years in pitch black
  • Animal rights charity Four Paws has rescued and re-homed the black bears at the Ninh Binh Bear Sanctuary
  • The bears, Xuan and Mo, lived in total darkness in the basement of clothes shop in Son La, northern Vietnam
  • Only time bears saw daylight was to suffer excruciating bile extractions or while being fed rotten vegetables 
  • Heartwarming pictures show the two bears enjoying their new home, where they can roam freely outdoors

Two black bears that were rescued from an illegal ‘bile farm’ in Vietnam after living for 17 years in pitch black cellars have been given a bright new home at a bear sanctuary.

The Asiatic bears – a male named Xuan and a female named Mo – lived in total darkness and were only able to see artificial light when they were undergoing excruciating bile extraction procedures, which was taken for use in traditional medicine and cosmetic products.

Xuan had been cruelly kept in a small cage in the basement of a clothes shop in Son La, northern Vietnam, since 2004, when he was just a cub. It is not known exactly how long Mo was kept with him, but she is believed to have lived there for many years.

But the mistreated bears have now started a new life at the Ninh Binh Bear Sanctuary after they were rescued from the dank cellars in March by animal charity Four Paws, who said the living conditions were some of the worst they had ever seen.

Heartwarming images and video footage show the two black bears, who are still in poor health due to their traumatic past locked in cages, embracing their loving new home, where they are able to see natural daylight.

Two Asiatic bears – a male named Xuan and a female named Mo (pictured) – have been enjoying their new life at the Ninh Binh Bear Sanctuary after they spent years trapped in small cages in a windowless basement in Son La, northern Vietnam

Xuan had been cruelly kept in a small cage in the basement (pictured) of a clothes shop in Son La, northern Vietnam, since 2004 when he was just a cub. It is not known exactly how long Mo was with him, but it is believed to have been many years

But the mistreated bears have started a new life at the Ninh Binh Bear Sanctuary after they were rescued from the dank cellars in March (pictured) by animal charity Four Paws, who said the living conditions were some of the worst they had ever seen

Although the bears have been rescued from the dire environment in the basement, they both still face a long road to recovery as they are suffering from both physical illnesses and psychological scars.

Xuan and Mo were found in rusty and dirty cages, the charity said, adding that they were left ‘speechless’ after discovering the bears had no access to fresh air or natural daylight in the windowless basement. 

After their rescue on March 23, both bears were medically checked and cleared for the nine-hour return journey to the Ninh Binh Bear Sanctuary. Xuan and Mo will now receive care to help them recover from the horrific ordeal.

The charity found both bears were suffering from gallbladder disease as a result of being repeatedly stabbed in the organ with probes designed to extract their bile. 

The bear sanctuary, which was set up by Four Paws, is home to some 40 Asiatic black bears, all of which were ‘not only victims of cruel bile farming prior to their rescue, but also of illegal wildlife trafficking’. 

Xuan and Mo were sadly kept in separate cages during their years living in the basement so they will be monitored at the sanctuary over the coming months to see if they can be socialised with other bears.

But the two black bears are both in such poor health that it is unclear if they will ever recover or be able to join their fellow Asiatic bears, according to a spokesperson for the animal rights group. 

Katharina Braun, Four Paws’ press officer, said: ‘From our experience with other bears we’ve rescued, this often works well, but of course depends on the individual personalities of the bears. If animals are socialised, it always happens under the safest possible circumstances.’ 

Heartwarming images show the two black bears (pictured: Mo), who are still in poor health due to their traumatic past locked in cages, embracing their loving new home, where they are able to see natural daylight

The Ninh Binh sanctuary (pictured: bears roaming outside), which was set up by Four Paws, is home to some 40 Asiatic black bears, all of which were ‘not only victims of cruel bile farming prior to their rescue, but also of illegal wildlife trafficking’

Adorable pictures show Mo and Xuan, who are currently living in quarantine from other bears to prevent the spread of diseases, wrestling one another as they enjoy spending time outside after years cruelly locked in small cages

Xuan and Mo were found in rusty and dirty cages (pictured), Four Paws said, adding that they were left ‘speechless’ after discovering the bears had no access to fresh air or natural daylight in the windowless basement

The charity found both bears (pictured in windowless basement with Four Paws staff during rescue) were suffering from gallbladder disease as a result of being repeatedly stabbed in the organ with probes designed to extract their bile

The Asiatic bears lived in total darkness (pictured) and were only able to see artificial light when they were undergoing excruciating bile extraction procedures, which was taken for use in traditional medicine and cosmetic products

Although the bears have been rescued from the dire basement, they both still face a long road to recovery as they are suffering from both physical illnesses and psychological scars Pictured: Xuan being rescued by Four Paws on March 23

She added that both bears still remain ‘stressed’ after the move and are adjusting to seeing natural light, having physical and mental stimulation and hearing sounds – all of which they were cruelly deprived of before. 

Braun said: ‘They are very reactive to any noise and other stimuli even though they are kept in a quiet area of the sanctuary – it will take some time for them to get used to the new surroundings.’

The animal rights organisation said Xuan is overweight, has lost multiple teeth, is struggling from severe behavioural abnormalities and has pancreatitis and gastritis, while he is on medication to make him less afraid.

A statement explained: ‘Xuan, like most former bile bears, suffers multiple diseases and due to his extremely difficult past he is struggling with severe behavioural abnormalities. 

‘The animal caretakers have been intensively working with him for the past weeks as it is very difficult to get him to take his medication. Last week, the onsite team noticed that Xuan had significantly deteriorated! It was decided to immediately examine him under anaesthesia.

‘His already diagnosed ailments had worsened and he additionally developed pancreatitis and gastritis. Sadly, all these conditions are extremely painful. 

‘His treatment plan is focused on controlling pain, inflammation and infection, but also when and if needed with the help of behavioural medications we will try to make him less stressed and scared.

‘He spent the next few days in the allocated area for hospitalised patients in our veterinary clinic at the Ninh Binh Bear Sanctuary for close monitoring and further treatment.’

Four Paws added that Xuan has many ‘psychological scars’ because he hasn’t yet understood that his ‘years of trauma’ are now behind him following his rescue.

The statement continued: ‘Unfortunately Xuan is one of many rescued animals that had to endure years of trauma, leaving not only physical but also psychological scars. 

‘When these animals are rescued and brought to a safe and suitable place, they might not immediately understand or recognise that their horrible past is behind them. A successful rescue itself often signals the start of our work, not the finish!

‘The way to recovery for Xuan will be long, but we will be next to him 24/7. Hopefully, with all the efforts and energy invested by the dedicated team, he will start to improve over time.’ 

Xuan and Mo are both living in a quarantine area at the sanctuary while receiving intensive medical care, to prevent any potential disease transfer between them and the other bears living at the sanctuary.

Xuan and Mo (pictured during rescue) were kept in separate cages during their years living in the basement so they will be monitored over the coming months to see if they can be socialised with the 40 bears who live at the sanctuary

After their rescue on March 23, both bears were medically checked (pictured: Mo being assessed) and cleared for the nine-hour return journey to the Ninh Binh Bear Sanctuary, where they will receive care to help them recover from the ordeal

The animal rights organisation said Xuan (pictured being rescued from cellar) is overweight, has lost multiple teeth, is struggling from behavioural abnormalities and has pancreatitis, while he is on medication to make him less afraid

The two black bears are both in such poor health that it is unclear if they will ever recover or be able to socialise with other bears, according to a spokesperson for Four Paws. Pictured: Windowless basement where the bears lived for years

Four Paws said both bears still remain ‘stressed’ and are adjusting to seeing natural light and having physical and mental stimulation – all of which they were deprived of when living in the basement (picturing during the rescue)

The bears’ former owners, who have not been named, will not be prosecuted because keeping bears is still legal in Vietnam, according to Four Paws. Pictured: The animal rights group rescue the bears from the shop in Son La 

Braun said that Mo is adjusting very well to her new life at Ninh Binh Bear Sanctuary, while Xuan is still showing some behavioural abnormalities and their main focus is on giving him time to recover.

She added: ‘Mo is doing really well and adjusting nicely at Ninh Binh Bear Sanctuary. She enjoys playing with her hammock and the enrichment the caretakers provide for her. She also still receives some medication but is overall developing well.’

The bears’ former owners, who have not been named, will not be prosecuted because keeping bears is still legal in Vietnam, according to Four Paws.

The charity were only able to rescue the bears from their dark basement prisons was because their bile was being harvested to be used in traditional medicine, a practice that has been banned. 

Asian black bears are listed as threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Endangered Species, but Four Paws said 372 bears in Vietnam are still ‘suffering in cruel conditions on bear farms or in private keeping’.

Braun explained: ‘The keeping of bears is still legal in Vietnam. The country only has minimum requirements for the keeping of bears.

‘Even if the keeping conditions do not align with those requirements, it is unlikely that the authorities would act. Every animal that is placed in species-appropriate care like ours is a big success already.’ 

Bear bile is a prized ingredient used in medicine and the fluid is extracted from the gallbladder, and used to be collected by hunters after a kill.

But in the 1980s, farmers began to extract bile from live bears which were often kept in tiny ‘crush cages’ or fitted with metal vests similar to a straight-jacket.

Methods of bile extraction include repeatedly puncturing the gallbladder with probes, fitting permanent catheters, or creating a permanent hole or ‘fistula’ from which the bile can be drained.

The procedures can be extremely painful if performed without anaesthetic, and can cause prolonged suffering or infection if the catheters or fistulas are not tended to.

The practice has been illegal in Vietnam since 1992, but continues to be legal in China – where bear bile was even recommended as a cure for Covid-19 early in the global pandemic.

Bear bile is used in cosmetic products and traditional medicine for fighting fever, detoxification, inflammation, swelling and for pain relief due to its positive healing effects.

But the ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) found in bear bile has been replaced by herbal and synthetic alternatives since the 1950s, rather than putting bears through a ‘life of agony’ before they often die on the farms.

Braun explained: ‘Vietnam has a history of cruel keeping of bears but is one of the only countries in Asia to take firm legislative steps against the keeping of bears to extract bile.’

Xuan and Mo are both in a quarantine area receiving intensive medical care to prevent any potential disease transfer between them and the other bears living at the sanctuary. Pictured: Mo is rescued from basement in Son La by Four Paws on March 23

Four Paws said that Xuan has many ‘psychological scars’ as he hasn’t yet understood that his ‘years of trauma’ are now behind him following his rescue. Pictured: Four Paws medically assess the bears before they were taken to bear sanctuary

Katharina Braun, Four Paws’ press officer, said Mo (pictured) is adjusting very well to her new life at Ninh Binh Bear Sanctuary, while Xuan is still showing some behavioural abnormalities and the main focus is on giving him time to recover

Asian black bears are listed as threatened on the IUCN’s Red List of Endangered Species, but Four Paws said 372 bears in Vietnam are still ‘suffering in cruel conditions’. Pictured: Mo enjoys her new life at Ninh Binh Bear Sanctuary

In 2005, the Vietnam Government launched a campaign in a bid to phase out bear farming through attrition, and all captive bears were registered and microchipped to ensure that no new bears arrive on the farms. But registered bears still remain in the care of farmers until they can be transferred to authorities or they die.

Since 2006, it has been forbidden by law in Vietnam to hunt, trap, possess, kill, sell or advertise bear or bear products, although it is not forbidden to possess a registered bear that was owned before 2005. 

Braun continued: ‘If there had been only 10 bears in captivity in 2005, all of them would have been confiscated. It was the number of captive bears on farms that prevented the government from exercising the law to address the problem. 

‘However, it is true that the attitude of government and society was that bear bile is useful and that although the law prohibits its sale, this law was ignored because it did not reflect social attitudes and norms.’ 

Speaking about what could be done to save the 372 other captive, endangered bears in Vietnam, Braun said that the Government must be made ‘more accountable for phasing out bile bear farming’. 

She continued: ‘There are still farmers, especially in Hanoi, which remains a hotspot of bear keeping in the country, who vehemently refuse to give up their animals, and one can only assume that they are still abusing their animals and trading the bile.

‘This must end and the government must act and deliver on its promise. We are putting pressure on them via our work on-site at Ninh Binh Bear Sanctuary, petitions and lobbying/talks on-site, and we are of course supporting them to provide a species-appropriate home to as many suffering bears as possible.’ 

It is thought there are around 10,000 bears being kept on farms in China, and around 1,000 caught up in illegal operations in Vietnam. 

Source: Read Full Article