Our partners, Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV), have taken action in Vietnam with WSPA support that has led to police and government officials shutting down illegal tours of bear farms in Ha Long Bay, an area well-known for its unlawful bear bile industry. The move will help protect many bears that still undergo bile extraction procedures despite it being illegal in the country.
ENV and WSPA raised concerns about illegal bear bile tourism in the area with the ‘Quang Ninh Province People’s Committee’ earlier this year. This influential committee has now stepped in to demand that local officials take immediate action against those who continue to break the law.
Despite a ban in 2008, many bear owners have kept their animals as there are limited places for them in sanctuaries. This has led to some individuals continuing the prohibited but lucrative trade in bile tourism, which involves visitors viewing the extraction procedure before being offered a sample of bile. Some tourists are then encouraged to purchase the bile which is then smuggled back to their country of origin.
Shift in thinking?
WSPA’S Regional Campaign Programmes Director, Emily Reeves states: “We welcome this move by the respected Quang Ninh Province People’s Committee and congratulate them for taking this strong stance. It shows an encouraging shift in political will and demonstrates that the government is genuinely committed to enforcing the laws governing the bear bile industry in Vietnam. Those individuals who continue to extract bile from bears will now have to answer to the authorities.”
In Quang Ninh province’s remote Ha Long Bay there are few local officials and while some have tried to enforce the law, others have in the past turned a blind eye to the illegal trade.
About time things changed
Founding Director of ENV, Vu Thi Quyen says: “Bile producers have operated ‘below the radar’ for far too long and public pressure is now mounting on local authorities to deal with the issue and put an end to this cruel and illegal form of business as soon as possible. We are encouraged by the statements of the Quang Ninh People’s Committee and urge officials to follow through accordingly and close these illegal operations quickly and permanently.”
WSPA and ENV will continue to monitor the situation in Quang Ninh Province to ensure local compliance with the directive, while also working with the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sports to educate the community about the updated national bear bile tourism prohibition order issued earlier this year.