Five bears are preparing for a brighter tomorrow after escaping the confines of a bile farm.
According to AnimalsAsia, the nonprofit learned from authorities in Vietnam that a bear bile farmer in Phung Thuong — the country’s epicenter of bear bile farming — was willing to part with five moon bears living in cages at the farm for at least 20 years.
“Bear bile farming is a cruel system designed to extract bile from living bears. Bears are confined permanently to small cages and denied free access to food and water. Here in Vietnam, caged bears are drugged with ketamine before being lassoed to have their bile extracted via a long unsterile needle and electric pump,” Thuy Hoang, a sanctuary manager with AnimalsAsia, told PEOPLE.
AnimalsAsia and the Vietnamese authorities have been working together for years to eradicate bear bile farming from the country and give the animals stuck at these farms a better life.
Like the other bears AnimalsAsia has rescued from bile farms, these five bears were taken to the nonprofit’s sanctuary in Vietnam. Before arriving at their new home, the moon bears — Dawn, Noon, Midnight, Chronos, and Twilight — lived in tiny, damp cages with no enrichment.
Rescuers found the bears showing signs of nervousness and anxiety.
“Fortunately, the bears all voluntarily walked from their farm cages to our transport cages. We then loaded them onto two large trucks to transport them to our sanctuary in Tam Dao. The trip took one and a half hours, and during the trip, we stopped to check if the bears were doing well. Ultimately, it was a very smooth operation for our team, and I am very proud of them,” Hoang said of the rescue.
With the rescue, which took place in late February, complete, the moon bears are now fulfilling a 30-day quarantine at the sanctuary. The sanctuary’s staff is closely monitoring the bears’ health. And while the animals’ overall well-being is improving, their caretakers have noticed signs of psychological stress while bonding with the bears.
“Chronos is very sensitive to noise and sways his head often,” Hoang said, adding, “Dawn is a broken bear from her appearance to her behavior.”
But at AnimalsAsia’s sanctuary, no bear is beyond help. The facility’s staff looks forward to showing these bears the joy and beauty of life at their expansive sanctuary, which houses over 207 rescue bears.
“It will be a slow start, but once they are ready, we can begin integrating them with the other bears on-site in our sanctuary. We all hope things turn out well with their health, both physical and mental, as soon as possible, so they can begin living a healthy, happy, and confident life with freedom,” Hoang shared.
AniamlsAsia is dedicated to rescuing every bile-farming bear in Vietnam and estimates that there are still roughly 117 bears stuck in cages at bile farms in Phung Thuong. To help with this mission, the organization is building a second sanctuary since their Tam Dao facility is nearly at capacity.
The new sanctuary will be located in Vietnam’s Bach Ma National Park. Once the facility is complete, AnimalsAsia will have enough space to save every bear stuck in Vietnam’s bear bile trade.
To learn more about AnimalsAsia and support the development of the organization’s second sanctuary, visit the nonprofit’s website.