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Bear deaths in Ha Long spur urgent calls for gov't action

Update: January, 23/2015 - 08:33
A wild bear at a private farm in Ha Long City. At least 12 bear deaths were recorded at bear farms near Ha Long Bay since November 2014. — VNA/VNS Photo Xuan Tung

HA NOI (VNS) — Animals Asia Foundation has warned that a number of bears are being starved and left to die at bear farms near Ha Long Bay, prompting serious calls for action.

At least 12 bear deaths were recorded since November 2014. At one farm, four bears died in one day, according to Animals Asia, an international non-governmental organisation that aims to improve the welfare of animals.

Inspections by the organisation and the Quang Ninh Forest Protection Department found that 77 per cent of 49 bears were wounded but did not receive any treatment. All the bears suffered from footpad hyperkeratosis, or dry and painful paws, from standing in steel-bar cages.

Many bears in the area of Quang Yen Town suffered from missing limbs and were emaciated and malnourished. Experts from Animals Asia said that these bears faced high risk of dying.

The foundation has sent three urgent requests to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's Forest Protection Department asking authorities to move the bears to the Viet Nam Bear Rescue Centre.

Animals Asia Viet Nam Director Tuan Bendixsen said that the foundation was waiting for instructions from relevant authorities but the bears needed to be taken to the Bear Rescue Centre as soon as possible.

There are currently about 2,000 bears under captivity at bear farms throughout the country, according to the Forest Protection Department. Animals Asia believes the number of bears at Ha Long Bay farms dropped from 280 in 2007 to 49 today.

"When bears are no longer profitable, there is always the fear that they will be illegally slaughtered and their parts sold for traditional medicine," Animals Asia founder and CEO Jill Robinson MBE said in a report on the foundation's website.

The foundation, in co-ordination with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, opened the Bear Rescue Centre in Vinh Phuc Province's Tam Dao National Park in 2006. The centre has saved more than 100 bears.

Quang Ninh Province banned bear farms from serving tourists in 2014, causing many owners to suffer huge losses, Tuoi Tre (Youth) recently reported. The farming of bears to extract their bile is also illegal in Viet Nam. — VNS

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