Biggest FOUR PAWS mission in Vietnam: Seven bile bears rescued from cruel captivity

Biggest FOUR PAWS Mission in Vietnam: Seven Bile Bears Rescued from Cruel Captivity

Suffering bears find a species-appropriate and safe home at BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh


23 September 2019 – During its biggest bear rescue to date, global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS managed to bring a total of seven Asiatic black bears to safety. On 19 and 20 September, FOUR PAWS rescued the former bile bears from their tiny cages in southern Vietnam. After a 40-hour journey to the north of the country, the bears reached their new, species-appropriate home – FOUR PAWS-operated BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh. 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 private keeping.

After being rescued in southern Vietnam, a journey of around 1,600 kilometres separated the seven suffering bears from a new life at BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh. First, the FOUR PAWS team rescued female bear Bac Ha from private keeping in Dong Nai province. The following day, the team freed six more bears – James, Thom, Mui, Hung, Ot and Thia La – from a bear farm in Binh Duong province after their owners agreed to voluntarily hand them over to FOUR PAWS. The bears were able to be enticed into the transport crates with the help of honey, so that no anaesthetic was necessary. 

“Sadly it was clear to see that the place obviously was still used as a bile farm. The health conditions of the bears were generally moderate to poor. Many suffer from hair loss, skin infections and very bad teeth. Bear Hung has a severe eye trauma and needs to be checked and treated once we arrive at the bear sanctuary. All bears will receive detailed veterinary examinations in our bear clinic” 

Dr Johanna Painer, veterinarian at the Veterinary University of Vienna, who examined all bears prior to the transfer

The FOUR PAWS team at BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh will now provide the former bile bears with the care and medical attention they need to recover in the long term.

Hundreds of bears continue to suffer in cruel keeping

Although a total of 18 Asiatic black bears live on the bear farm in Binh Duong Province, FOUR PAWS was only able to save six animals at this time. The remaining bears are kept on the farm legally and cannot be rescued without the permission of their owners. There are currently over 400 more bears in Vietnam in a similar situation. 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.

Sanctuary for a total of 100 bears in northern Vietnam

By the end of 2019, BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh 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. 21 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 gradually regaining their natural instincts and living species-appropriate lives, miles away from their earlier 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

FOUR PAWS on Social Media

Stay up to date on this topic and on all FOUR PAWS activities on our social media channels:

or subscribe to FOUR PAWS International newsletter.


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.

Share now!