Wednesday, 5 March 2014

JMICAWE visit rescued bears in Vietnam

Last month saw Professor Nat Waran, veterinary surgeon Heather Bacon and welfare veterinary nurse Hayley Walters, visit Vietnam to deliver a 3 day Veterinary Education conference at Hanoi Agricultural University.

After landing in Hanoi the trio had just enough time before the conference started, to visit a sanctuary full of Moon and Sun bears that had been rescued from the bile farm industry.

Bear bile has been used in traditional medicine throughout Asia for thousands of years. Traditionally the bile would be taken from the gall bladders of killed wild bears but in the last few decades, bear bile farming was set up and crude extraction techniques were developed. Farming for bile usually involves keeping bears in small cages for their entire lives and, in Vietnam, sedating them and inserting a long needle into the gall bladder to extract the bile despite the practice now being illegal and synthetic alternatives to bear bile being available.

Bears are either bred in captivity to supply the farm trade or mothers are shot, cubs snatched and then trafficked around Asia for the industry. Animals Asia, a Hong Kong based charity, rescues these bears from farms and after extensive surgery and treatment, rehabilitates them into semi natural enclosures.

Heather and Hayley both used to work for Animals Asia so were revisiting old friends at the bear sanctuary but it was Nat’s first time there and she was overwhelmed by the experience.

 “I was very impressed with the level of dedication that the international and local staff showed towards these hundred plus bears at the sanctuary. And I was pleased to see how happy these bears now appeared in their enriched surroundings, despite the appalling conditions they had previously lived in, some for more than 30 years, and the painful procedures and in come cases permanent damage, they had endured on the farms prior to confiscation.”

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