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

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Goodbye Ketchup, Hello Sriracha!

    How immigrants are triggering a great transformation in American cuisine

    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.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora