Nguyen Dinh Xuan, a member of Vietnam's National Assembly and anti-bear trade crusader, was honored Tuesday by the mayor of Bern, a Swiss city known for its connection to bears.
Xuan visited several bear farms in the northern province of Quang Ninh in May last year and found that bear bile was being extracted from live bears for sale.
Xuan, director of Lo Go Xa Mat National Park in the southern province of Tay Ninh and member of the National Assembly Committee on Science, Technology and Environment, then sent requests to authorities asking for intervention.
Xuan pointed out that bears cannot reproduce in captivity.
Bern's mayor Alexander Tschaeppaet honored Xuan during his visit to Hanoi Tuesday, local newswire Vietnamnet reported.
Bern recognizes the bear as a sacred creature.
Tschaeppaet said he wanted to recognize what 39-year-old Xuan had done so that bear protection efforts in Vietnam would get more attention and support.
Since receiving Xuan's reports, Quang Ninh environmental police have arrested two South Koreans and nine Vietnamese at a bear farm where 82 bears were living, including 24 illegal ones.
Around 100 bears are being kept in captivity at 5-6 bear farms in Ha Long, Quang Ninh Province, according to local authorities.
Using bear products is illegal in Vietnam.
Statistics by Vietnam Forest Management Department showed that around 4,000 bears were being kept in captivity nationwide, most of them caught from the wild. The demand for bear bile has become a threat to bears in Vietnam, experts said.
Scientists have long said that the oft-touted medical benefits of ingesting bear bile are non-existant.
Education for Nature-Vietnam had earlier found thousands of visitors at Vietnamese bear farms. Some said they bought bear hands, gall and wine for between VND300,000-5 million (US$16-264).
Bern was established in 1160 and named after a large bear. In 1513, a bear garden was built and became a famous attraction in the city. In October 2005, Bern set up another bear park on its outskirts.