A man from southern Vietnam willingly gave five captive-bred bears to an animal welfare charity on Monday, in a country where bear farming for the extraction of bile – a substance used in certain folk remedies – has been common.
The man, Le Minh Anh, has let his five moon bears be tended by the Vietnam Bear Rescue Center, a Vietnamese unit of Animals Asia – a Hong Kong-based foundation championing compassion and respect for animals worldwide, especially bears.
Anh’s moon bears, which belong to a species classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, each weighed 80-130 kilograms at the time of the handover.
They had been raised for nearly 15 years in sturdy iron cages at his home in Tien Giang, a neighbor of Ho Chi Minh City.
The adult animals, two of them female and three male, were micro-chipped for easier official regulation by the local Forest Protection Department, which persuaded Anh to have them freed to the natural environment.
The bears will be transported over nearly 1,700 kilometers to the Vietnam Bear Rescue Center in Vinh Phuc Province, which neighbors Hanoi.
The micro-chipping was part of the Vietnamese government’s initiative launched in 2005 to phase out the nationwide captivity of bears by requiring farmers to keep the mammals until the creatures die and prevent the birth of new cubs.
In Vietnam, over 4,000 bears were kept on private farms mostly for bile extracting purposes in 2005, a record number of caged bears reported, according to the figures on Animals Asia’s website.
In mid-2017, the Vietnamese government entered into a historic agreement with the foundation, committing itself to shutting down all bear bile farms and sending bears to sanctuaries by 2020.