Freedom at last!

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 Freedom at last!

Three bears are to live happily ever after in a new wildlife sanctuary created to make their suffering a distant memory.

One of the tragic animals rescued from a life of misery is carrying the mental scars of being locked up in a cage without her front paws. Not only were Hai Chan’s paws cut off to be turned into a wine tonic, she was also milked regularly for her bile to make ancient Chinese remedies. Her ten-year ordeal behind bars has left a terrible legacy. She has enlarged adrenal glands and suffers from stress disorders. Recently, animal rescuers were able to cut through the locks of her prison to ease her anguish and mark a new chapter in Hai Chan's life. International animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS have said that Hai Chan and two other Asian black bears are the first arrivals at its new Ninh Binh sanctuary in north-east Vietnam. 

Here, Hai Chan and fellow bears Thai Van and Thai Giang will be getting expert veterinary care and enjoying a torment-free life in a “species-appropriate” environment. Kieran Harkin, head of international wild animal campaigns at FOUR PAWS, said as she settled into her new home: “Hai Chan spent most of her life on a farm in a tiny metal cage in a filthy and poorly ventilated room. Not only were the keeping conditions miserable, but also the lack of nutrition and the painful bile extraction procedure have taken a huge toll on the bear. We also assume that her paws were amputated and used to produce bear paw wine. Finally, her owner realised that Hai Chan deserves a better life.”

Using bears to extract bile was banned in Vietnam as long ago as 1992 and yet there are still 400 farms housing up to 1,300 animals. They have become known as the "saddest bears”. The bear bile industry has been condemned for leaving the animals suffering from infections, abscesses, and blood poisoning, as well as liver cancer, while the poor living conditions sees them having behavioural disorders and even turning to self-mutilation.

FOUR PAWS hope to accommodate up to 100 bears at its new centre, which has taken a year to build and has large outdoor enclosures spread across four acres, as well as indoor retreats, a veterinary station, and bear kitchen.

For female bear Thai Van and male bear Thai Giang, both aged 16, life at the new facility will be far removed from their previous existence as “pets” at a steel company. The FOUR PAWS official said: “Whether they were previously abused for bile extraction is unknown. However, given their health condition, it is clear the two bears have been kept in similarly dreadful conditions. Their teeth are dull and the animals are full of parasites. In addition, Thai Van is missing some fingers. We are glad that the owner handed over the bears to us.”

Both bears will spend several weeks in quarantine before they can be released into their outdoor enclosures. Earlier this year, the Vietnamese authorities reaffirmed they would end bear farming and begin rescuing bears. FOUR PAWS says it is still campaigning to encourage the Vietnam Government to end bear farming, and has gathered 580,000 signatures on its petition:

Sourced and adapted from article at


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