In Asia, Asiatic black bears, known as moon bears for their beautiful white chest markings, are increasingly threatened by human activities. In just the last 30 years, their population numbers have declined by 30 to 49 percent, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
This downward trend is expected to continue over the next 30 years as logging and human settlement expansion ramps up across moon bear habitat. Yet, these aren’t the only threats moon bears face.
Like sun bears, moon bears are poached for their body parts and are also kidnapped from their families and wild home. Moon bears are often captured from the wild and held captive for years at bile farms in China and Vietnam, where bear bile has long been considered a traditional Asian medicine and is still a popular medicinal choice even though effective and more humane options now exist.
At these farms, moon bears are regularly “milked” for their bile through incredibly painful and invasive techniques which often cause infections in addition to perpetual suffering, as leading bear advocacy nonprofit Animals Asia reports.
These bears are kept confined for the majority of their lives in tiny cages where they cannot stand or even turn around – similarly to how battery hens and other farmed animals are kept in our industrialized agriculture system.
According to Animals Asia, some moon bears are never released, even after up to 30 years of forced service.
“Most farmed bears are starved, dehydrated and suffer from multiple diseases and malignant [tumors] that ultimately kill them,” Animals Asia reports.
Over 10,000 bears are held captive in Chinese bile farms with 2,400 others forced into the same, painful fate across the border in Vietnam. However, times finally seem to be changing with increased advocacy and outreach efforts underway in both countries aimed at raising awareness about medicinal alternatives and educating the public about the plight these bears face.
Recently, Animals Asia had the great pleasure of rescuing a very special moon bear named Ti Map, or Chubby Mouse, in English.
For the last 14 years, Ti Map has suffered through extraction after painful extraction at a small bile farm in the province of Binh Thuan in southern Vietnam.
Ti Map’s rescue is so special because it marks the end of bear bile farming in the Binh Thuan province – hooray!
“Ti Map’s rescue meant [that] we can now close off one more bear farming province,” Animals Asia Vietnam director, Tuan Bendixsen tells OGP.
His rescue process began back in February 2014, when the Vietnam Forest Protection Department contacted Animals Asia for help after Ti Map’s owner willingly decided to leave the cruel bear bile business.
After a month of paperwork and preparation, dedicated Animals Asia staff took to the road on March 21, 2014 and traveled 1,056 miles over the course of three days to rescue Ti Map.
During the course of Ti Map’s rescue, Bendixsen reports that he stopped breathing twice while under anesthesia — something Bendixsen says they have not seen in all of the 117 bear rescues they have undertaken.
Thankfully, Ti Map pulled through and slept soundly for a good portion of his transport.
When he did awaken during the long trip back to Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Sanctuary, he had plenty of food and greenery to keep him full, happy, and comfortable.
Bendixsen tells us that they have discovered Ti Map’s fondness for cabbage, stating that he went straight for the leafy vegetable when he was given a mixture of bananas, watermelon, and cabbage greens.
After traveling from nearly one side of the country to another, Ti Map finally arrived at the Vietnam Bear Sanctuary.
Here, he will be kept in quarantine for 45 days to ensure that “he’s not carrying any disease or infection that could be passed to other bears at the sanctuary,” Bendixsen reports.
After Ti Map’s quarantine period is over, he will be slowly introduced to larger spaces. Once this integration proves effective, Ti Map will finally reach the end goal of his rescue – to be outdoors with other rescued bears.
In the sanctuary’s outdoor enclosure, he will “experience grass under his feet, sunshine on his back and rain for the first time since he was poached from his mother 14 years ago,” Bendixsen says. A beautiful life awaits Ti Map at his new, loving home!
In addition to rescues like Ti Map’s, Bendixsen tells us that Animals Asia Vietnam is currently working with the Vietnam Traditional Medicine Association to promote 32 herbal alternatives that can treat illnesses which people have traditional used bear bile for.
The nonprofit is also running education programs for local communities and tourists to raise awareness about the cruelty surrounding bear bile farming in addition to working alongside the Vietnamese government to “[identify] illegal bear farms and [help] them in their law enforcement,” as Bendixsen says.
To support Animals Asia amazing rescue work and advocacy activities aimed at ending bear bile farming in China and Vietnam, consider making a donation or getting involved in other ways. By working together, we can end this cruelty once and for all.
Lead image source: Animals Asia