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November 28, 2021, 1:24 am

1,800 bears in captivity in Vietnam

(15:41:01 PM 17/01/2015)
( - Conservation experts are concerned that bear attacks similar to the one in which a 3-year-old boy lost his arm could continue as Vietnam has up to 1,800 bears in captivity.


1,800 bears in captivity in Vietnam

Photo: Bears at the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre at the Tam Dao National Park (Vinh Phuc).


A three-year-old boy lost his right hand in an attack by a bear had kept as a pet for years on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City last Sunday.


The bear weighing more than 100 kilograms was killed by electrocution so the baby’s hand could be retrieved, but local doctors could not reattach it.


The boy's grandmother said he was playing near the bear’s cage with her at their home in Hoc Mon District, when the animal bit his arm and tried to pull him into the cage.


A man who lived next door rushed to the site, managing to release the boy, but his hand was bitten off during the process.


Police are investigating the case.


Similar bear attacks on children have been reported in Vietnam in recent years. Last April a 28-month old boy lost his forearm after being assaulted by a bear kept in captivity at his home in the northern resort town of Ha Long.


In another attack in the northern province of Phu Tho in September 2013, a five-year-old boy lost both his arms.


The Vietnamese government outlawed bear bile extraction in 1992, but people are still allowed to keep the animals as pets.


The number of bears held in captivity has decreased, now below 2,000, according to figures compiled by Animals Asia, a Hong Kong-based animal welfare group which runs a US$2-million bear rescue center in northern Vietnam.


As noted by the Office of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora Convention (CITES) in southern Vietnam, this bear was not in the file of the HCM City Forest Management Department.


"Similar incidents are possible in the future because many households still breed wild animals at home," said Dr. Tuan Bendixsen, Chief Representative of the Animals Asia Foundation, director of the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre.


Tuan said the bear's habitat is wild. Bear cages owned by individuals are usually substandard and just one square meter. Bears are locked in the cages, while in the wild they move five miles a day. This causes stress, which could lead to attacks.


Tuan Bendixsen said that many captive bears wear no electronic chip and records for management.


Raising bears for bile began to be popular in Vietnam more than a decade ago, although it was prohibited. In 2005, there were 4,600 bears in captivity. These animals were captured from the wild or illegally imported from neighboring countries like Laos and Cambodia. All of them had no record or clear origin.


In this situation, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development asked the Prime Minister to issue a decision tightening bear management by attaching chips and making files of each bear in captivity.


If bear owners no longer want to breed, they must hand over the animals to the state, and not trade bears for commercial purposes.


According to CITES Vietnam, the number of bears in captivity in households has declined considerably with better management of this species.


Bears in the wild have nearly become extinct in the country. Old bears have been dying and people no longer believe in bile for disease treatment


"Vietnam currently has 1,800 bears raised by households. They have chips and are managed by files archived at local forest protection departments," said the director of CITES Vietnam, adding that if people hand over their bears, CITES will take them to rescue centers.


The provinces or cities with the highest numbers of captive bears are Quang Ninh, Nghe An, Binh Duong, Ho Chi Minh City, and Hanoi.


Minh Thuy

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