News / Asia

Vietnam Animal Activists at Odds with Officials Over Bear Sanctuary

Actress Maggie Q, a goodwill ambassador for Moon Bear Rescue Vietnam, plays with an Asiatic black bear cub at the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre in Tam Dao National Park, north of Hanoi May 14, 2009.
Actress Maggie Q, a goodwill ambassador for Moon Bear Rescue Vietnam, plays with an Asiatic black bear cub at the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre in Tam Dao National Park, north of Hanoi May 14, 2009.
Marianne Brown
Animal rights activists in Vietnam are confronting the government over a move to evict one of the country’s few bear sanctuaries for what it says are reasons of national security. Activists say the case is an example of government corruption in lucrative business deals.
 
Two moon bear cubs chewing a hanging rope toy in a special enclosure are the newest additions to a bear sanctuary in Tam Dao national park 70 kilometers from Hanoi. They were rescued from two men on their way to a province bordering China, where conservationists believe they were going to be sold to a farm that extracts bile from animals.
 
Animal bile is used in traditional Asian medicine as an anti-inflammatory, to treat fever, improve eyesight, and heal other ailments. Bile farming is illegal in Vietnam.
 
Despite the cubs' rescue, their future could still be uncertain. The bear sanctuary, run by Hong Kong-based Animals Asia, says it is facing possible closure. The organization's Vietnam director, Tuan Bendixsen, said he was told the Ministry of Defense issued an order to evict the rescue center from the national park because of reasons of national security.
 

“MARD [the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development] convened a meeting between the different ministries and the Vinh Phuc provincial government and also the Vinh Phuc military commander as well," Tuan said. "From that meeting they issued a communique which means that the conclusion of the meeting is that the centre must be closed and moved elsewhere.”
 
Many of the 104 animals in the sanctuary have been saved from life in bile farms where animals are often kept drugged and restrained in small cages. Bile is extracted by jabbing needles into their gall bladders, sometimes as often as twice a day.
 
Tuan says apart from the center at Tam Dao, Vietnam has only a small number of sanctuaries for rescued bears with very limited space. He says the situation would worsen if Animals Asia is forced to close the Tam Dao center because authorities have neither the expertise nor the resources to look after rescued bears.
 
“It’s difficult now to get law enforcement. But if that’s the case [the center is closed down] it will be so much easier for them to say we cannot confiscate them because there’s nowhere for confiscated bears to go to,” Tuan said.
 
The controversy heightened when Animals Asia issued a press release accusing national park director Do Dinh Tien of lobbying the Ministry of Defense to evict the sanctuary for personal reasons. The charity said Tien wanted the earmarked land for a hotel project that allegedly has business ties to Tien's daughter.
 
Tien denies the accusations. He says he is a very junior person and does not know people in high positions. He says accusations that he is behind the eviction letter are nonsensical because he does not have any relatives or know any officials working at the Ministry of Defense.
 
But some say the rescue center's expansion could affect national security. Tran The Lien, director of the Natural Conservation Department under the Ministry of Agriculture, says he did not think the center would be evicted, but it would affect expansion plans. If the center is expanded into the Chau Dau valley it would meet a military base so it should be expanded in another direction.
 
The Vietnamese government banned bear bile farming in 1992, but people are allowed to keep bears as pets or tourist attractions. Owners were warned not to use the animals for bile. However, advertisements for bear bile are easy to find on the roadside. Around 4,000 bears are believed to be held in captivity in the country.
 
Animal Asia's Tuan says the final decision on the fate of the rescue center will be made by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, who gave permission for the sanctuary to be built in 2008. He says the government's commitment to end bear-bile farming would be cast in doubt if Dung backs the Defense Ministry.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs