Compensation to bear farmers will promote more crimes against bears
- Category: ENV Activities
- 13 March 2015
Recently, there have been articles showing sympathy with bear owners’ financial difficulties after the closure of bear bile tourism in Ha Long and proposing to “compensate” bear owners before agreeing to transfer their bears to bear rescue centers. If compensation is given to bear farm owners in Ha Long these criminals will be paid, undermining our efforts to end bear farming in Vietnam and putting other bears on farms, as well as in the wild at risk.
After eight years extracting bear bile and selling it to tourists, bear owners in Ha Long Bay haven’t given up on trying to make money from their dying bears following the government closure of their bear bile business. The farmers are using the lives of their surviving bears as “bargaining chips” calling upon the government for compensation of 40-50 million Vietnamese dong ($2,000-$2,500 USD) for each bear before they will agree to turn them over to authorities. This only further shows the greed of these businessmen that have profited while violating the law for so many years.
By the end of 2005, Vietnam had finished micro-chipping and registering all captive bears in order to prevent new bears from being illegally hunted and transferred to bear farms where they are routinely exploited for bear bile. Since 2005, bear owners are only allowed to keep registered bears.
However, in 2007, authorities found 81 illegal bears being kept at several bear farms in Ha Long where they were being used to extract and sell bile to Asian tourists.
According to Decision 47/2006/QĐ-BNN regulating the management of captive bears (which was in effect at that time), “Every bear that is kept in violation of the stipulations of this regulation must be confiscated. Bear farmers shall be held legally responsibility in accordance with the regulations of existing law.”
However, at that time, bear farm owners in Ha Long were granted special consideration and were subject to administrative penalties only. Only one bear was confiscated and the remaining 80 bears were registered and allowed to remain on the farms.
The Ha Long bear farmers resumed business activities selling bear bile, making profits from busloads of Korean tourists between 2007 and 2014.
During a surveillance in January 2013, ENV recorded that the average number tourists visiting one of the farms was about 100 people each day. Accordingly, profits from extracting and selling bear bile during these eight years were substantial.
A wealthy man, having become rich from the bile of his illegal bears and currently holding his remaining bears hostage in hopes of compensation. House of Nguyen Thanh Nhuong – one of the bear owners in Ha Long.
Source: ENV, Jan 2015
However, after many years of campaigning to end the bear bile tourism business in Ha Long, ENV was able to document and provide clear evidence of bear farmers’ blatantly violating the law, and authorities in Ha Long decisively acted to end bear bile tourism for once and for all, closing the remaining farms to visitors.
Since then, the number of captive bears in Ha Long has been decreasing with some bears transferred to other locations outside the province, and others becoming sick and dying, reportedly as a result of their owners reducing their diet to save on costs.
Recognizing the poor living conditions of the remaining captive bears in Ha Long, efforts have been underway to negotiate the transfer of these remaining bears to rescue centers. However, bear farm owners are holding their bears hostage, insisting upon compensation before agreeing to transfer their bears. This insistence comes on the heels of more than eight years of illegal exploitation of the bears, which were all of illegal origin.
ENV notes that if the bear business owners had been strictly punished in the first instance they would not feel the courage to oppose the government and insist that they be paid for their bears that they should not have had in the first place. Ironically, as these bear business owners are negotiating with the lives of their bears, support grows to pay off these criminals, a precedent that would impact the lives of both wild and captive bears throughout the country by creating a market for “rescued bears”.
“There are around 2,000 bears remaining on bear farms in Vietnam”, said Mrs. Nguyen Thi Phuong Dung, Vice Director of Education for Nature - Vietnam (ENV). “Setting up a mechanism to buy bears from bear farmers is a weak response to dealing with criminals who violate Vietnam’s wildlife protection laws, as well as setting a dangerous precedent that will put even greater numbers of bears and other wildlife at risk in Vietnam.”
ENV expects the authorities NOT TO COMPROMISE with bear owners and IMMEDITELY confiscate and transfer the remaining captive bears in Ha Long to the Tam Dao Bear Sanctuary or a suitable alternative without compensation.
For more information, please contact:
Mrs. Bui Thi Ha
Policy and Legislative Program
Education for Nature - Vietnam (ENV)
Address: Block 17T5, 17th floor, Room 1701, Hoang Dao Thuy Street, Cau Giay District, Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel: +844 6281 5424
Website: www.thiennhien.org (Vietnamese), www.envietnam.org (English)
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