End crimes against Bears
Vietnam is home to two species of bears; the Asiatic black bear (Ursus Thibetanus) and the Malayan sun bear (Helarctos malayanus). Both species are protected under Vietnam’s wildlife protection law, Decree 32 (2006). It is illegal to hunt, trap, possess, kill, sell or advertise bear or bear products in Vietnam. They are also protected by international law under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).
Bears are disappearing
The demand for bear bile poses a critical threat to Vietnam’s bears. Bears are hunted in the wild and sold live to commercial farms, where they are exploited for their bile to meet consumer demand. Bears are also hunted for their meat and body parts or to be kept as pets or as ‘live trophies’ in hotels and businesses.
Bear Farming and the bear bile industry
With the rapid economic growth in Vietnam, the use of bear bile has become a more popular form of traditional medicine. In order to supply the demand, bears are kept in small confined cages, where they regularly have a long syringe repeatedly poked into their gall bladders to extract bile. ENV's footage of a bear bile extraction.
The National Forest Protection Department (FPD) estimates that 2385 bears are in captivity. Scientists estimate that there are more bears in captivity than in the wild. As there have been only a few cases of bears born in captivity in Vietnam, most of Vietnam’s captive bears are likely to have come from the wild.
Another development in the illegal bear bile industry is bear tourism. ENV investigators have found that tourists regularly visit bear farms as part of organized tours to Ha Long Bay. During some of these visits, tourists witness bile being extracted, taste bear bile wine, and purchase bear bile products. There are all illegal activities under Vietnam’s laws.
Since 2008, ENV has carried out surveillance at the entrance to six major bear farms located near Ha Long Bay in Quang Ninh Province. Investigators have documented daily visits by tour buses loaded with mainly Korean tourists.
Phasing out Bear farming
In 2005 the Vietnamese government launched efforts to phase out bear farming. The first step of this process was to stop any new bears entering the trade by registering all known captive bears. After this process, the plan was for all unregistered bears to be confiscated and their owners prosecuted. However, weak enforcement and conflicting new regulations have undermined this effort and led to numerous cases of illegally held bears being registered and left in the hands of private owners. Even if bears are registered it is still illegal for owners to extract bear bile.
What ENV is doing:
Investigation and monitoring:
ENV’s wildlife crime team, with the support of our national network of volunteers,
undertakes regular investigations and surveys of bear farms, and tracks cases involving bears or bear products. The crime team, with the support of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), has also conducted investigation training for rangers and environmental police specifically to help them investigate the illegal trade of bears in Vietnam.
Working with government and authorities
Information relating to cases of bear crimes uncovered by ENV or reported to the wildlife crime hotline is passed onto authorities. In each case ENV’s bear case officer then works with authorities to help effectively resolve it. ENV also works to build support amongst key government decision-makers and leaders to strengthen policy and legislation protecting Vietnam’s bears and ensure that current laws are enforced.
Public awareness campaigns
ENV conducts regular campaigns aimed at raising public awareness about Vietnam’s bears and reducing the consumption and use of bear bile and bear products. Recent advertising campaigns include bill boards on major highways, bus and magazine advertisements and Public Service Announcements (PSA) on television and radio. Public Service Announcements (PSA).
Engaging Public participation
Say “No” bear campaign
ENV is encouraging Vietnamese citizens to make a commitment not to use bear bile by signing pledges. Our education team tours the country with a mobile bear exhibit which provides the opportunity for the public to learn more about the plight of Vietnam’s bears and sign pledges to show their commitment. More than 112,000 pledges by ordinary Vietnamese citizens have been collected up to October 2012.
Bring Peace to Vietnam’s bears
ENV held the “Bring Peace to Vietnam’s Bears” national poster competition. The competition received 96,000 entries expressing concerns and ideas from people of different ages, ethnicities and occupations around the country. Check out some of the exhibited works from this competition in our media gallery.
What you can do:
• Do not use, purchase or consume bear bile or products made from bears.
• Contact the ENV Wildlife Crime hotline if you see bears or bear products being advertised or sold in Vietnam.
• Donate to ENV’s bear campaign.