Local authorities, residents and tourists in Vietnam’s UNESCO-recognized Ha Long Bay in the northern Quang Ninh Province recently took part in a campaign in a joint effort to put an end to bear bile farming, Animals Asia reported on Wednesday.
The campaign, running during peak tourist seasons, has been joined by all levels of provincial government, which is a positive sign that local authorities are now committed to eliminating the rampant bear bile farming in the area.
During the five-day campaign, Animals Asia- an organization devoted to ending the barbaric practice of bear bile farming and improving animals’ welfare in China and Vietnam- and the provincial Forest Protection Department (FPD) staff handed out 12,000 leaflets to tourists and locals to raise their awareness of the issue.
The leaflets were written in Vietnamese, English, Chinese and Korean.
Officials from Ha Long City Police Department, the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, International Relations Department, all signed to indicate their resolution in combating the wildlife crime by protecting bears and saying no to bear bile products.
Around Ha Long City, particularly in Bai Chay Wharf, where over 5,000 tourists board boats to visit the bay every day, local authorities have given permission, for the first time, for more than 100 anti-bear bile farming banners to be displayed free of charge until the end of the peak tourist season.
The banners feature content which discourages locals and tourists against using bear bile products.
However, Dr. Tuan Bendixsen, director of Animals Asia Vietnam noted that some reports have showed undue optimism about the situation.
“Claims that only two or three farms remain in the province and that the trade can be eradicated by the end of the year don’t really tally with our observations,” he pointed out.
Though bear farming for bile is illegal, over 100 bears are still languishing on farms throughout the province– with the two largest farms holding a combined number of 78 bears.
These establishments continue to avoid prosecution by making use of legal loopholes such as claiming bears are pets.
Tourists, particularly those from South Korea, are typically talked into visiting bear farms and buying bear bile products.
Founded in 1998, the Animals Asia team has been rescuing moon bears since 1994 and is the only organization with a bear sanctuary in China.
Animals Asia has so far rescued over 400 bears, caring for them at its award-winning bear sanctuaries in China and Vietnam.
The Hong Kong-based organization has grown into a respected international NGO with over 300 staff and offices in Australia, China, Germany, Italy, the UK, US and Vietnam.