Bear behind bars

FOUR PAWS Rescues Senior Bear in Vietnam after Three Decades in Tiny Cage

Bear Ben finds a species-appropriate home at BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh


5 December 2019 – Just as the end of the year is approaching, global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS has transferred one more former bile bear to its BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh in Vietnam. 30-year-old Asiatic black bear Ben was kept in a tiny cage for most of his life. He was regularly abused for his bile, which is used as a remedy in traditional medicine. However, there have been herbal and synthetic alternatives with the same healing properties since the 1950s. The senior bear will soon ring in the new year with a fresh start at the sanctuary, where he can finally experience a species-appropriate life. Demand for bear bile for healing purposes is reportedly declining, however, up to 450 bears in Vietnam are still living in cruel conditions on bear farms or in single keeping. In 2019, FOUR PAWS has provided 20 other exploited bears in Vietnam with a new home, most of which came from similar backgrounds of abuse as Ben.

In a one-day rescue and transfer, the FOUR PAWS team made the 200-kilometre journey from the bear sanctuary to Son La province in western Vietnam, where the bear was kept in a private yard. Ben spent three decades living on metal bars in a 4m² cage with barely enough room to turn around. The austere cage was poorly cleaned, filled with mouldy faeces and had trash dumped next to it. Ben had no direct access to drinking water, no enrichment to engage with and no shelter from changing weather conditions. The former owner, who handed him over to FOUR PAWS voluntarily, apparently stopped extracting bile from the bear in 2015.

“Ben has poor body condition. He is underweight and lacks muscle mass. He has gallbladder inflammation which is a strong indicator that he has been abused for his bile. One of his canine teeth is broken due to biting the metal bars of his cage and he potentially has arthrosis of his spine, which will be checked in a more detailed health exam in our sanctuary clinic further on.”

says FOUR PAWS vet Szilvia Kalogeropoulu, who examined Ben prior to the transfer.

The experienced team at BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh will now provide Ben with all the care he needs in order to recover from his past suffering and regain his natural instincts.

Sanctuary for a total of 100 bears in northern Vietnam

FOUR PAWS is working with local cooperation partners to free as many bears as possible from their sad fate. With BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh, FOUR PAWS is helping the Vietnamese government to close bear farms and end the cruel practice of bile extraction once and for all. By the end of 2020, the sanctuary will have room for up to 70 bears. Once all construction work is complete, up to 100 rescued bears will find a new home on 10 hectares of land. 28 Asiatic black bears are already enjoying their new lives in the species-appropriate environment. Built to the highest standards, the bear sanctuary has an animal clinic, quarantine, two bear houses and four outdoor enclosures. Visitors can see how the bears are living species-appropriate lives. In the spacious open-air enclosures, the bears have access to ponds, trees, climbing and hiding places. BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh is not only a safe home for former bile bears, it is also an awareness and education centre for animal and species conservation in Vietnam.

Katharina Braun

Katharina Braun

Team Lead Public Relations

+43 (0) 664 885 33 270

VIER PFOTEN International 
Linke Wienzeile 236
1150 Vienna, Austria

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FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions.

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