Farm owner hands over 14 bears to rescue center

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The Hong Kong-based Animals Asia Foundation has transported 14 moon bears voluntarily handed over by the owner of a bear farm in the southern province of Binh Duong to a rescue center in northern Vietnam.

Former inmates of the Hoang Oanh Bear Farm in Binh Duong, some 15 kilometers north of Ho Chi Minh City, have found a new home in the Moon Bear Rescue Center at the Tam Dao National Park near Hanoi.

The animals, known as moon bears for the distinctive yellow crescent-shaped mark on their chests, had significant health problems and were accompanied by vets on the trip from Binh Duong to Tam Dao.

Nguyen Ngoc Tien, one of the four owners of the farm, decided last week to give up his share of the farm to Animals Asia Foundation with no demand for compensation.

Tien told Thanh Nien Weekly he handed over the bears because he wanted them to have a better place to live.

"Now I realize the bears should not have to suffer the pain from bile extraction. I will keep encouraging my friends who own bear farms to give up keeping bears in captivity and hand over the animals to rescue centers," he said.

Tien raised the bears in his farm as pets in the beginning, but later turned to extracting bile from their gall bladder after hearing that it has medicinal properties.

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Tuan Bendixsen, Animals Asia's Vietnam director, said it was the first time a Vietnamese bear farm had given up a significant number of animals without compensation.

Bear farming is illegal in Vietnam though people are allowed to keep bears in cages as pets. While they claim bears are not exploited for the bile, it is widely known that bear farming is a thriving industry in Vietnam.

The Vietnamese government in 2005 issued a directive on phasing out bear farming through attrition, permitting owners to keep their bears but prohibiting the acquisition of new bears. Farmers who already had captive bears were allowed to maintain them as tourist attractions.

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