Global superstars including Dame Judi Dench, Russell Crowe, Ricky Gervais, Sir Paul McCartney, Joaquin Phoenix, William Shatner and Richard Gere have come together to support Animals Asia taking a big step towards saving the Asiatic black bear (aka moon bear) species from extinction in Vietnam.

Animals Asia is ending bear bile farming in Vietnam, a long-standing cruel practice that has been pushing moon bears towards extinction in the country. The industry in Vietnam relies on restocking from wild populations and as a consequence, Vietnam’s Asiatic black bear population faces the most severe decline on record, according to The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

As the Vietnamese Government’s official solution partner in bringing the industry to a close, the organisation begins to rescue the last remaining bears on bile farms in Vietnam (around 400) and close the farms for good one by one in the country. Once the last bear is saved, this trade will be history for Vietnam, and hopefully will set a precedent for other countries in the region to follow suit.

“We’re on the cusp of ending bear bile farming in Vietnam forever, bringing to a close an industry that causes decades of suffering for beautiful, forgiving moon bears”, says Animals Asia Founder and CEO Jill Robinson. “Together we can make this historic change happen by putting kindness in action. Please join me and thousands of others in taking the Moon Bear Pledge.”

Celebrities “raise their paws” for the moon bear

In order to raise awareness of this monumental step in biodiversity protection, global stars such as Kim Basinger, Andie MacDowell, Anjelica Huston, Matt Sorum, Kesha, Torrey Devitto, Mayim Bialik and Jimmi Simpson have joined acclaimed conservationist Jane Goodall PhD, DBE and wildlife activist Virginia McKenna in signing Animals Asia’s Moon Bear Pledge.

“I am so proud to be part of this pledge and to give my support to this campaign – rescuing the moon bear from the cruel practice of bile extraction”, says Dame Judi Dench. “Animals Asia has taken a major step forward in partnership with the people of Vietnam to end this practice and secure a better future for these beautiful animals. Join me. Raise your paw for the moon bear, to finally end bear bile farming in Vietnam, and ensure that no bear is left behind.”

Renowned actor, director and writer Stephen Fry calls animal lovers around the world to join him in signing the pledge: “The beautiful moon bears have been cruelly farmed for their bile, often ripped from their mothers in the wild when they were just baby cubs. Please don’t stand by and let these incredible animals fade away. This is one problem you can fix. Raise your paw for the moon bear.”

“The moon bear is one of only eight species of bear left in the world, and it is vulnerable to extinction,” says Jane Goodall. “Join me. Sign the Moon Bear Pledge. Raise your paw for the moon bear.”

BAFTA Scotland Award winner and bestselling author Alan Cumming highlights the importance of this pledge for the organisation and Vietnam: “Animals Asia are on the brink of achieving their founding goal – of ending bear bile farming in Vietnam. I feel so glad to be a part of this pledge as an animal lover. This is a historic campaign towards saving a vulnerable species in Vietnam, a country dedicated to ending this long-standing cruel practice forever. Join me. Raise your paw for the moon bear.”

Actress Mayim Bialik emphasizes the danger awaits the moon bear species: ’Here’s a simple way to help a species you’ve probably never even heard of – the moon bear, also known as the Asiatic black bear, but it’s called the moon bear because of their crescent moon shaped markings on their chests. But I think it looks more like the bat signal, but never mind that. Sign the moon bear pledge to help Animals Asia to end illegal bear bile farming in Vietnam. Bile farming for traditional medicine is cruel, gross and has been pushing the moon bear to the edge of extinction there.’’

A new sanctuary in Vietnam to leave no bears behind

Bear bile farming has been illegal in Vietnam since 1992 but has persisted due to legal loopholes and continued demand. The poaching of bears from the wild to stock these bile farms has pushed the Asiatic black bear onto the endangered species list in Vietnam. But in 2017 after years of careful negotiation, the Vietnam government agreed to end bear bile farming once and for all and signed a historic Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Animals Asia, naming the charity their official partner in bringing the industry to a close.

The most up-to-date surveys show there are around 400 bears on farms, but rescuing this number and providing them with sanctuary for the rest of their lives will require a huge effort. Whilst the Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre in Tam Dao is now approaching its full capacity, a new sanctuary needs to be built before the organisation can start rescuing the bears remaining on farms. Animals Asia is about to break ground on its new sanctuary and is recruiting and training the staff to look after the bears for the rest of their lives. This 12-hectare sanctuary will sit within the beautiful, mountainous surroundings of the Bach Ma National Park in central Vietnam and will eventually be home to the bears who still remain on bile farms.

Animals Asia’s Vietnam Director Tuan Bendixsen emphasizes the importance of this new sanctuary for the conservation and rewilding of moon bears: ‘’Overall, in Vietnam, there is no doubt that bear bile farming caused the massive decline in the wild bear population. We can save the wild bear population if we can end bear farming and rescue all farmed bears to sanctuaries. This will stop the poaching and demand for wild bear cubs to restock the farms and allow wild bears to re-populate. Evidence to support this: 34% of the bears we rescued were either cubs or young adults of 5 years old or less. (79 out of 230 bears rescued) 40 of them were cubs of a few months old. This data shows that there are still some wild bears in Vietnam, but unless bear farming is ended, they will eventually become extinct.’’

Reducing demand for bear products

Animals Asia takes a holistic conservation approach to save this endangered species. According to IUCN, “The most beneficial conservation measure for Asiatic Black Bears would be to substantially lessen the demand for bear products, and thus reduce hunting and trade.” Besides saving bears from farms and illegal wildlife trade, Animals Asia also works to lessen the demand for bear products, by engaging with the traditional medicine community and other users of bile to promote herbal and synthetic alternatives. The organisation also holds educational campaigns for the Vietnamese public and contributes to research in this area to promote herbal alternatives to bear bile.

Combating wildlife trafficking – 651 bears rescued in total

Animals Asia has just rescued its 651st bear recently. In collaboration with the Vietnamese authorities, the organisation saves bears poached and trafficked besides those rescued from the bile farms, like Marvel saved this week. On 29 November, Tủa Chùa Forest Protection Department in Vietnam confiscated a bear cub who was being trafficked across the border from Laos. They contacted Animals Asia immediately and asked the organisation to give the care the cub needs at Animals Asia’s sanctuary by its expert veterinary team. If the illegal traffickers are not intercepted, these bears can end up on a bear bile farm, in a circus or caged as an exotic pet.

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