A recent investigation by a Korean TV station in late September and subsequent surveillance by ENV investigators reveal that Quang Ninh bear farmers continue to engage in illegal exploitation and trade of bear bile, targeting Korean tour groups.Over the past few years, bear farm tourism in Quang Ninh has attracted a great deal of publicity. This illegal activity involves hundreds of Korean and other Asian tourists visiting the farms each week, where they witness the extraction of bile from captive bears, taste bear bile wine, and buy bear bile and other bear products, which are then smuggled out of Vietnam when they leave the country in direct violation of the law.ENV has been working to put an end to this illegal practice since 2007 when the bear bile tourism business in Quang Ninh was first discovered. Surveillance by ENV investigators has concluded that these business establishments receive dozens of buses full of Korean tourists each week.
Most recently in November 2010, after a Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) film was aired inKorea, field investigators observed Korean tour groups still entering Quang Ninh farms,confirming that it is “business as usual” for bear bile businessmen in Quang Ninh. A news segment filmed in October 2010 by KBS Television shows Korean tourists visiting a farm and bile being extracted from a bear. Tourists are then shown purchasing bear bile to take back to Korea.In October 2009, Environmental Police raided the Viet Thai Tourism bear farm and caught the Korean managers preparing to extract bile froma captive bear for a group of Korean tourists.Authorities later confiscated a total of six bears from two Quang Ninh businessmen and issued administrative punishment to the Viet Thai Company. However, these actions appear to have failed to deter bear bile business owners from further violations of the law.
“We highly appreciate the positive responses of Quang Ninh functional authorities in thecase of the Viet Thai operation, however,these first steps haven’t been followed by more serious action to bring an end to this practice,” says Dung, ENV Co-director. “These bear bile businessmen are openly challenging the law. It is time that provincial authorities supported by relevant ministries step in and close this illegal form of business for once and for all.”
“This business casts a shadow over the image of Vietnam. It is time to demonstrate that we are serious about our efforts to protect bears and send a message to violators and the public that law is a requirement, not a suggestion, and it applies to all, including businessmen in Quang Ninh who may mistakenly believe that they are above the law,” Dung says.