[Ed. Note: Visit Bears to see images of bears held captive for decades so people can profit from their bile.]
On Tuesday, 29 November 2011, our Vietnam team rescued 14 bears from a bear farm in Bihn Duong province in southern Vietnam, and began the grueling four-day, 2,000km-plus trip back to our Moon Bear Rescue Centre in Tam Dao National Park in the north.
This was an exciting and unique rescue for Animals Asia, where the bears' owner, Mr Nguyen Ngoc Tien, contacted us to surrender his bears voluntarily, turning his back on bear farming, and requesting we take the bears into our care. Mr Nguyen had read about Animals Asia and seen our work on TV, and with a conscience troubled by his involvement in the cruel bear bile business, he made the decision to end the misery for his 14 bears, who had been trapped on the farm for at least eight years.
Over a period of weeks, Vietnam Director Tuan Bendixsen met with Mr Nguyen and liaised with the local Binh Duong Forest Protection Department (FPD) to arrange the official transfer of the bears into Animals Asia's care.
The FPD was keen to support the handover and insisted on supervising the anaesthetising and transfer of the bears. Officials would be on hand to ensure all went smoothly and to check the bears' identity through their microchips.
There are a total of 54 bears here, lined up side by side — some are anxious and angry, some appear to have given up, with empty eyes and little interest in the activity around them. The bears singled out for surrender are Mr Nguyen's share of the larger bear farm business, and while he is intent on persuading his partners to give up their bears too, only these 14 will be leaving this place today. The rescue is tainted with sadness for the bears left behind.
Said Kirsty, "It's really hard to look into the bears' eyes and know we will leave them behind. We hope they won't be in cages forever."