Bears hug after rescue from horror ‘bile farm’ where they were caged and starved

Heartwarming footage shows bears hugging each other at a rescue centre after hundreds of them were saved from years of barbaric abuse in Vietnam and China.

In a video clip, the moon and sun bears can be seen playing, caressing and wrestling with each other after being nursed back to physical and mental health in recovery.

The moon bears, now safely located at Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre in Tam Dao, are on the brink of extinction in Southeast Asia after falling victim to illegal practices including torture, the charity said.

Animals Asia said they have witnessed moon and sun bears being left to starve to death and saved an innocent cub after it was trapped in a chicken cage – all in the name of bear bile farming, which is used for traditional Chinese medicine.

Dang Thanh Van, who works for the Vietnam sanctuary told the Daily Star: "Each time we open the rusty cage to rescue the bears from the bear bile farms where they suffer unimaginable pain.

"They are kept in tiny dark cages for up to 30 years and are starved and dehydrated as this can encourage bile production.

"They are pumped full of antibiotics and other drugs just to keep them alive."

The supporter engagement coordinator says that bear bile can be replaced with synthetic or herbal alternatives to avoid causing "extreme" suffering.

"Bear bile farming has pushed the moon bear to the edge of extinction in Vietnam as wild bears are captured and sold to the bile trade," said Dang.

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"It creates a network of captive facilities where it is relatively easy to launder wild-caught bears.

"As well as facilitating the trade in live wild bears, [ the farms] are also acting as a source for the illegal trade in bear parts."

Dang added: "The most common method in Vietnam entails the extraction of bile using an ultrasound machine, catheter, and medicinal pump.

"[They ] are drugged – usually with ketamine (an illegal drug in Vietnam) – restrained with ropes and have their abdomens repeatedly jabbed with four-inch needles until the gall bladder is found."

The charity coordinator went on to speak about one of her most recent rescue missions where they travelled 12 hours to rescue a cute bear cub, now named Marvel after they were sent an alarming video from Tủa Chùa Forest Protection Department.

"When we saw the footage of this tiny cub fearfully pacing up and down in his tiny cage, our rescue team, ever at the ready, dropped everything," said Dang.

"One of the great moments at our Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre is seeing the bears walk into our quarantine housing after a long journey, and their first steps out of cages which had held them [ for ] over a decade.

"It’s just such a relief to get the bear home safely. We all know their whole world has changed for the better from that moment. A lifetime of darkness, pain, and despair, but that’s all about to change."

Animals Asia has saved a staggering 657 bears in Vietnam and China – with bears ranging from the estimated ages of six months old to 25 years.

They said they have joined forces with the Vietnamese government to help shut down every bear bile farm in the country.

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Dang added: "The resilience of these remarkable creatures, their ability to endure such heartbreaking deprivation and torment, their capacity to recover from terrible trauma, and their willingness to forgive is extraordinary.

"One example would be our moon bear P.J. He would have gone through a lot in his short life – being torn away from his mother whilst still a baby, then kept in a very small chicken cage.

"We think he was initially caught in a snare as he has a deep scar on his right front leg. So it is no surprise he was once very shy and scared around people.

"P.J. now is a friendly bear and is loved by everyone. He looks cheerful playing with his friends in our large enclosures where they can go out to forage or play together for the rest of their lives."

Plans are now underway for the charity to create a second sanctuary, with the aim to break ground in 2022, as they have nearly reached capacity at their current site.

"Bach Ma will be home for up to 300 bears with 6 double bear houses and 12 enclosures as we work towards a bear bile farm free Vietnam by 2025/26," Dang added.

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