There has been noisy talk recently concerning the discovery that some caged bear farms in Quang Ninh extract bile for sales to international tourists. Informed of the incident, the Forest Range Department on 17/9/2009 met with representatives of some agencies related to discuss tightening of the raising of caged bears.
Caged bear population booms
Mr. Ha Cong Tuan – Director of the Forest Range Department, said that in 2001, Vietnam had 240 bears raised in cages but in 2005, the number increased to over 4,000, a rise of average 1,000 each year and all of them have been caught from the wild. In face of this practice, the Forest Range Department has since September 2005 done the count and attached electronic chips to the caged bears for the convenience of management.
“Since 2006, we have basically stopped the poaching, illegal sales and enclosing natural bears. The proof is that for 4 years of the start of attached electronic chips, the population has increased by 179.” According to Mr. Tuan, the 179 found to be unattached with an electronic chip have been processed and 136 have been moved to rescue farms and national parks such as Tam Dao and Cat Tien while the remaining 40 are being handled with.
Mr. Do Quang Tung – Director of the Office of Cites (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) said that there are 15 cased bear farms in Quang Ninh with the population of 320, focusing in Yen Hung district and Ha Long city. In 2008, eight farms were given a penalty for violations with the fine totalling VND 449 million and one bear was confiscated.
Also according to Mr. Tung, of the 15 bear farms in Quang Ninh, seven are open to international tourists for sight seeing but actually they are selling bear bile. All of the 7 farms possess an incorporation licences granted by the Quang Ninh Department of Planning and Investment, which allow them to receive visitors for the tourism purpose only. “However, the promotion and sale is in the foreigners’ hands. Most visitors coming for bear bile are South Koreans and even, the bear bile sale signs posted there are also written in Korean,” Mr. Tung added.
After successful trade, bear bile is hidden carefully. It is divided into small containers covered by foil to avoid the discovery by scanners at airports or border gates. After that, these “bags” of bear bile are packed together with ginger boxes. Usually, each visitor buys about 100 cc.
Need to set up a Steering Board against trade in wild animals
Regarding this problem, Mr. Nguyen Viet Thanh – Deputy Director of the Department for Smuggling Investigation and Suppression of the Customs Administration said that there needs to be concerted effort from different parties related. The information provided must be specific and precise, otherwise the checking of foreign visitors’ luggage and keeping them will lead to other problems. “If we don’t cooperate well and the information is not precise, the national tourism industry will be hurt while we are striving to promote tourism,” Mr. Thanh explained.
To make the matter worse, trade in wild animals in Vietnam is in an alarming position. “Since 2004, we have confiscated 10 tonnes of elephant tusks,” said Mr. Thanh, who blamed the practice for the massive licensing of imports of wild animals and wild life – based products, making it difficult for related agencies to control and manage. Beside bear bile illegally harvested from local bear farms, there has reportedly been imported bear bile, mainly in the dried form from Laos and the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea. Imported dried bear bile fetches for VND 6 million/tael.
Facing the practice of illegal trade in bear bile, according to a leader with Division 2, Department C36, Ministry of Public Security, it is foremost to stop the harvesting of bear bile for sale to visitors in Quang Ninh. To make the matter worse, despite the numerous number of documents governing the management of bears and trade in wild life – based products, bear bile is not listed among them, making it difficult to handle with. Additionally, it takes at least two days to identify whether it is bear bile or not, so the keeping of foreign visitors in wait for checks should also be taken into account.
Most agencies concerned share the view that it is necessary to set up a steering board made up of members from the Department of Forest Range, Customs Administration, Border Guard and Police (C36, A17 and Interpol) to fight the trade in endangered wild life. It is said that the establishment of such a board will help promote the concerted effort among the concerned agencies and information will be processed in a faster, more precise and easy way.
Translated by Tran Tho Binh, the translator hired by ENV on September 29, 2009
Please note: Translated by Education for Nature – Vietnam. This translation is unofficial in nature. The Vietnamese language version of this story can be obtained by contacting ENV