Rescuers moved Na the Asiatic black bear from her cage at a bear bile farm in Vietnam to a large, open habitat at a sanctuary
For the first time in 20 years, Na the bear has choices.
Until October 17, the Asiatic black bear lived in a tiny cage at a bear bile farm in Vietnam bear Ho Chi Minh City, the same place she had been for the past 20 years.
Rescuers from World Animal Protection talked to the bear's owner and convinced them to surrender Na, whose name means custard apple.
World Animal Protection works with Vietnam's Forest Protection Department (FPD) on a monitoring program that seeks out bears who used to be part of the bear bile industry in Vietnam. The country banned bear bile farming — keeping bears captive to remove their bile for medicinal purposes — in 2005 but allowed farmers to keep their bears.
Through the monitoring program, World Animal Protection and the FPD inspect former bear bile farms, allowing the organizations to speak to the farmers and work to convince them to surrender their remaining bears to rescuers.
This is what happened to Na. After visiting her farm every year since 2019, World Animal Protection and FPD got permission to move Na to a sanctuary in the country. Na, who was the remaining bear on the farm on the day of her move, left her small cage with little natural light behind and upgraded to FOUR PAWS' bear sanctuary in Ninh Binh, Vietnam, where she lives in a semi-wild habitat with 45 other Asiatic black bears.
World Animal Protection and FOUR PAWS pooled resources to execute the rescue and transport Na to the sanctuary.
"We're thrilled that Na will finally be free after suffering for so long. For more than 20 years, she was unable to feel the sun on her back, breathe fresh air, or explore like all bears should. World Animal Protection continues to work tirelessly with our partners to ensure more bears like Na are released to sanctuaries," Liz Cabrera Holtz, a senior programs manager with World Animal Protection US, said in a statement.
Unfortunately, Na's struggles are not entirely over. The bear arrived at the sanctuary in poor health with broken and infected teeth, eye issues, fur loss, heart disease, and degenerative bone disease. FOUR PAWS' sanctuary is working to help Na recover and enjoy her retirement years.
"She suffers from multiple severe health issues commonly seen in bile bears, such as chronic osteoarthritis, dental, liver, and heart disease," Barbara van Genne, the director of the wild animals department at FOUR PAWS, said in a statement. "Na will have to have surgery for suspected glaucoma in one of her eyes."
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"Our experienced team at the bear sanctuary in Ninh Binh will now provide her with all the care she needs. Na's story is a reminder that bears are still suffering on bear farms in Vietnam. Help often comes too late, as many die alone and in pain. The Vietnamese authorities must swiftly close all remaining bear farms to give as many bears as possible a second chance at a better life," she added.
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