There are a couple of things we should unpack here before we get started.
1. What is a Moon Bear?
Moon Bears, otherwise known as Asiatic black bears are named because of the crescent shape on their chests. They are predominantly found in The Himalayas, in the northern parts of the Indian subcontinent, Korea, northeastern China, the Russian Far East, the Honshū and Shikoku islands of Japan, and Taiwan. While not endangered, the Moon Bear is classified as vulnerable. The largely herbivorous species has been known to be aggressive towards humans. For their parts, humans like to trap them and harvest their various bits and fluids for traditional “medicine.”
Here’s some rare footage of a Moon Bear in the wild in China:
2. What is a bile farm?
At bile farms, captive bears are often surgically implanted with catheters to allow the “farmers” to harvest, bile, a digestive fluid stored int heir gallbladder. The bile is then used in some forms of Asian medicine. While many countries have banned bile farming, they can still be found (illegally) in China, South Korea, Laos, Vietnam, and Myanmar.
Here’s a video of Henry Rollins confronting a Bile Farmer in Vietnam:
Now that we’re all caught up, let’s talk about what happened. The non-profit group, Animals Asia successfully freed five captive bears that were being held in a bile farm for the last 21 years. The bears, named LeBON, Kim, Mai, Star, and Mekong were all suffering from injuries such as abdominal penetrations as well as dental decay from malnutrition and biting the cages in attempts to free themselves. The NGO has moved the bears to Vietnam’s Tam Dao National Park where they will now be cared for at the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre.
Animals Asia Vietnam Director, Tuan Bendixsen, had this to say:
“We know that in more than 20 years of cruel incarceration, LeBON, Star, Mai, Mekong, and Kim have never had proper nutrition or medical care. They have known only rusty cages and a life of suffering. They were viewed as commodities and not treated as individuals. At the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre, they will finally experience freedom, play in grassy enclosures, forage for food and have the
Jill Robinson, the founder of Animals Asia, is a Veterinarian and the world’s leading authority on/ advocate against bile farming. She had this to say shortly before the bears arrived at the sanctuary:
“We eagerly await LeBON, Kim, Mekong, Star and Mai’s arrival at their new home at Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre. They will never suffer behind bars again. This is an important step in our work to remove all of the bears who remain on farms in Vietnam from their cages and bring them to the sanctuary. It is a new day for these innocent bears who will now finally enjoy some of the freedoms they were denied so long ago.”
in 2017, the Vietnamese government agreed to work with Animals Asia to help rescue the estimated 800 bile farming bears that are still illegally being held in captivity around the country.