NGO blows lid off massive bear deaths in Ha Long

By Vu Ngoc Khanh, Thanh Nien News

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Photo credit: Animals Asia Foundation

Hong Kong-based animal welfare group Animals Asia Foundation has warned about a large number of bears dying of starvation at private bile farms in the heart of world heritage site Ha Long Bay. 

The NGO said 12 bears have died on two farms in Quang Ninh Province’s Ha Long city since last November, including four in a single day. 

Pham Thi Thuy Trinh of Animals Asia told Thanh Nien 37 bears live in captivity at bile farms, most of them with open wounds and serious malnutrition as they are starved. 

“During an inspection tour by Animals Asia and the Quang Ninh Forest Protection Department in early November 2014, we found the bears starving and wounded, many with missing limbs and teeth, and all of them suffering from sore, cracked paws after years of treading on the bars of their tiny rusting iron cages.” 

The massive numbers of deaths raise the question whether bile farm owners intentionally kill the bears so that they could sell their body parts, she said. 

If it is true, it is illegal since the law prohibits the commercial use of bear body parts and requires the burial of bears to be witnessed by authorities, she said. 

Animals Asia believes the number of bears in Ha Long Bay farms has plummeted from 280 in 2007. 

Nearly 2,000 are held in captivity in bile farms across Vietnam, according to figures compiled by the Vietnam Forest Protection Bureau. 

Quang Ninh Province banned bear farms from serving tourists in May 2014, causing huge losses to their owners. 

Mac Van Xuyen, deputy head of the provincial Forest Protection Department, told Thanh Nien the bears might be starved since the farm owners cannot earn money from extracting bear bile to sell to tourists. 

His department has reported about the issue to the provincial government and the agriculture ministry, he said. 

Animals Asia has also called on the Vietnamese government to release the animals.

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