On Sunday last week, ENV staff infiltrated a bear farm in the Phuc Tho district of Hanoi and documented on film a bear bile extraction as customers watched.
More than 4000 bears are currently registered as being on bear farms in Vietnam. The owners are not permitted to extract and sell bear bile according to the law, but such practices are common at most bear farms. The Forest Protection Department has a plan to phase out bear farming by preventing new bears from ending up on farms, punishing violators and confiscating bears from farmers that are caught breaking the law.
In practice, however, few bears are confiscated and farmers receive a slap on the wrist at best, and return to violating the law.
“It is a frustrating situation,” says Van Anh, head of ENV’s Wildlife Crime Program. “We have had about 200 new cases where bears have been discovered on farms since the freeze on new bears was put in place.”
Van Anh notes that the positive side of the story is that some provinces are taking the issue seriously. Provinces such as Yen Bai, Can Tho, and Dien Bien have confiscated illegal bears from owners.
“These positive examples clearly demonstrate that some provincial governments are doing their best to achieve the spirit of the law by preventing new bears from ending up on farms.” Van Anh says. “We can only hope that other provinces will see and understand the importance of taking active measures to end bear farming in their provinces too.