Openly raising and keeping bears and extracting bear bile in Quang Ninh province

Source: Science and life newspaper         
Issue: 60       
Date: 17 May, 2008

The story about an officer from the Environment Police and a representative from ENV who ventured into an illegal bear farm in Quang Ninh province and witnessed an open display of the extraction and marketing of fresh bear bile for foreign tourist suggests that the law is not strict enough to deter bear owners.

Openly marketing bear bile

After witnessing the extraction of a bear’s bile to meet demand from tourists, Ms. Nguyen Thi Van Anh, the Manager of ENV’s Wildlife Department described the following shocking scene: “With the wave of a hand, an anaesthetized bear was put on the table. A Vietnamese man skillfully performed an ultrasound scan to identify the position of the gallbladder.  And within minutes, 80cc of bear bile had been extracted and shown to the tourists”.

In just four days, this monitoring team observed and recorded 36 tourist buses entering the farm carrying an estimated total of 386 visitors, mostly Korean. At one point, Ms. Van Anh was forced to pretend to be a Korean tourist in order to get into the farm.

After touring the bear gates in 10 minutes, visitors were led to a small room where a Korean staff member of the farm made a presentation to visitors about bears and so-called benefits of bear bile. Then, around ten visitors were offered the chance to drink wine mixed with bear bile. Before leaving the farm, all visitors were invited to buy fresh bear bile. The entire tour lasted about one hour. All of these activities were secretly recorded.

Openly operating bear bile farms

In Quang Ninh, six of the nine known bear farms are open to tourists. Ms. Van Anh said: “Bear farms in Quang Ninh province are openly carrying out illegal exploitation and trade of bear bile under the guise of “bear zoos” for tourists.

The open marketing of bear bile in many unregistered bear farms shows that the law enforcement does not seem to be strict enough. As a result, there are increasing numbers of bears being kept illegally in captivity on farms which operate right under the noses of functional agencies.

Mr. Bendixsen Tuan, Chief Representative of the AAF in Vietnam said: “The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has issued a document stating that that any exploitation of bear parts is prohibited; however, functional authorities are not applying this regulation to these cases. This can be interpreted in two ways: either the law is not strict enough or the law is being ignored. As the regulations themselves are fairly adequate, we must conclude that the enforcement is not strict enough. Recently, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development submitted a new proposal on the settlement of the unregistered bears in Quang Ninh, which stated that the bear owners should be permitted to keep the bears, rather than have them confiscated, and also imposing a new regulation on the conditions in which bears can be kept. “We already have a regulation, so it is not necessary to produce a new one which contradicts the former”, stated Mr. Bendixsen Tuan. 

Translated by Nguyen Mai Huong on May 21, 2008, edited by Laura Whitford of ENV on May 292, 2008 for the Wildlife Protection Program

Please note:  Translated by Education for Nature – Vietnam.  This translation is unofficial in nature.  The Vietnamese language version of this story can be obtained by contacting ENV


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