There are two bear species native to Vietnam; the Asiatic black bear (Selenarctos thibetanus) and the Malayan sun bear (Helarctos malayanus).
The demand for bear bile poses a critical threat to Vietnam’s bears. Bears are hunted in the wild and sold live to commercial farms, where they are exploited for their bile to meet consumer demand. Bears are also hunted for their meat and body parts, or to be kept as pets.
A sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) rescued from traders in Nghe An province.
There are an estimated 4,000 bears in captivity in Vietnam. Scientists predict that there are more bears in captivity in Vietnam than left remaining in the wild! An Asiatic black bear (Selenarctos thibetanus)
Bile is surgically extracted from the gall bladder of bears. Although consuming bear bile has been shown to be ineffective, and sometimes even dangerous, some believe that it can be used to treat health ailments including stomach and liver disease, rheumatism, toothache, sexual disorders, and even cancer.
In the spring, mother bears, difficult to capture alive, are often shot by hunters and their cubs taken for the trade. These two bear cubs were reported to the authorities, but disappeared shortly after this photograph was taken. The resulting police investigation led to the discovery of 80 more illegal bears.
Photo by JG
Adult bears are sometimes captured using wire snares. The snares often result in mangled paws or amputations.
Photo by JG
Bear paws in the freezer at a wildlife trader’s house that was raided by police in September 2007.
Photo by Thuc Quyen
Bear paw wine in a restaurant in Hanoi. Like bear bile, some people believe that drinking bear paw wine is healthy and makes you strong (like a bear).
A signboard advertises bear bile outside a restaurant in Vinh city.
A typical Sunday at a bear farm in Ha Tay province where more than 50 Asiatic black bears are kept. Customers come out from Hanoi to buy bear bile, often insisting on watching the extraction process to ensure that the bile is genuine and fresh.