Monday, October 20, 2008

Bear Rescue in Tam Dao

Steve mentioned that there was a bear rescue centre in Tam Dao and I said that I would be up for coming along if it could be arranged. Bears are one of my favourite animals and I am a supporter of Animals Asia Foundation who among other projects are working to end bear bile farming in China. Lien successfully managed to arrange a visit for the Earthwatch team one morning with the help of the Tam Dao National Park Director as it was not yet open to the public.

Once we arrived, I was greatly surprised to find that this was a brand new facility that Animals Asia Foundation had set up to continue their work in Vietnam which I faintly remembered reading about in one of their newsletters but had not put 2 + 2 together that it was the same place. What a wonderful coincidence that it was located right in the very national park that I was visiting!

The facility was extremely impressive and contained quarantine enclosures, a vet surgery and bear houses. Once completed it will be able to house a total of 200 bears. It also plans to use it as a base to raise public awareness about the barbaric practice of bear farming. They even have planted a beautiful herb garden to promote the numerous heal alternatives to bear bile. The staff were very friendly and professional and one of the Bear Managers, Bec, did a fantastic job of showing us around and explaining how it all worked.

Donning gumboots which had to be disinfected as they were sick bears in the surgery, we were lucky enough to see 2 cubs aged about 6 months who had just been rescued from the boot of a car crossing the Laos/Vietnam border. They were absolutely adorable, playing and tumbling over each other - clearly very happy and unaware of what could have been a very horrible fate.

The aim of Animals Asia Foundation is to end bear farming entirely in Vietnam. According to official figures in Vietnam there are currently 4,000 bears incarcerated in tiny cages for bile extraction, the physical and mental suffering that they endure is extreme - and the mortality rate is high.

Check out their website for more info:

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