Ninh Binh sanctuary saves bears from bile farming

(VOVWORLD) - The bear bile trade has been banned in Vietnam since 2005. However, due to a lack of animal-friendly facilities, a number of Asian black bears and Sun bears remain on farms where they are still used for illegal extraction of bile. Recently, a bear sanctuary in Ninh Binh province operated by the wildlife welfare organization Four Paws Vietnam  opened to the public.

Seventeen bears previously kept in captivity in order to harvest their bile are now living in Four Paws’ sanctuary in Nho Quan district. Open every day from 9am to 5pm, the sanctuary offers free admission to visitors, who can observe rescued bears enjoying their lives in natural enclosures and learn about the pain they suffered as victims of bear bile farming. The bear sanctuary has its own veterinary clinic, two bear houses, a quarantine station, and four outdoor enclosures.

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The bear sanctuary in Ninh Binh province is inaugurated on March 7, 2019. (Photo:

German Ambassador to Vietnam Christian Berger said Ninh Binh has no more bears in captivity and he hopes other localities will follow the province’s example.

“For me, this center has three functions, three purposes. One is to help the bears and free them from a terrible life in a cage. The second is this rescue center, this sanctuary is also very good for the province of Ninh Binh for tourism. Ninh Binh is now free of bears kept in cages. So it’s good for the image of Ninh Binh province for setting an example. The third one is that this sanctuary should also educate, especially the younger generations, about the cruelty that it means to keep bears in cages,” he said.

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The sanctuary is currently home to 17 bears. (Photo:

The sanctuary has a total area of 10 hectares of living space, a peaceful semi-wild environment large enough for 100 bears.

Four Paws is an international animal welfare organization headquartered in Vienna, Austria. Founded by Heli Dungler in 1988, the organization helps animals in need through various campaigns and projects. Dungler has called for greater efforts to close all bear farms and place the animals in sanctuaries.

“We think the time should be over where animals are in cages. As you see here how the animals can live, if they can climb, they can swim. This is the nature for a bear, and not a cage. NGOs are very important to work together with the authorities, to work together with the politicians and to make projects to help the animals and other humans. And if you see the humans’ school classes coming here, they learn about bears, they learn so much and see what the bear needs for his life,” he said

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Two bears are playing in the semi-wild enclosure spotted from the observation room. (Photo: VNS/ Khoa Thu)

Four Paws Vietnam Director Ngo Thi Mai Huong said Vietnam has two kinds of bears: the sun bear and the Asian black bear. Their survival is being gravely threatened by habitat loss and illegal hunting. The sanctuary was established to take care of the bears and provide them a more natural habitat, she said.

“We are currently working with Education for Nature (ENV) and the Wildlife Animal Project (WAP).  Our target is to eliminate bear bile farming in Vietnam,” Huong said.

Ninh Binh sanctuary saves bears from bile farming  - ảnh 4Eco-friendly products are available at the sanctuary’s shop. (Photo: VNS/ Khoa Thu)

Vice Chairman of the Ninh Binh People’s Committee Nguyen Ngoc Thach said that since 2015, the province has helped Four Paws build the bear sanctuary in an area zoned for the Vietnam National Wildlife Park. This is a pilot model for wildlife rescue and care that Ninh Binh hopes to expand in the near future.