Animals Asia has unveiled the location of its new sanctuary in Bach Ma, Vietnam, bringing them a step closer to ending the cruel, outdated and illegal practice of bear bile farming in the country.

The practice has been pushing Asiatic black bears (aka moon bears), and Malayan sun bears towards extinction in the country. To celebrate this milestone, a host of global superstars joined the organisation’s founder and CEO Jill Robinson MBE to unveil the location of their new sanctuary.

Jill Robinson MBE, has been a pioneer of animal welfare in Asia since 1985 and is widely recognised as the world’s leading expert on the cruel bear bile industry, having campaigned against it since 1993. “This is a truly historic day. We are witnessing another monumental chapter in our collaboration with the Government of Vietnam that will lead to a definitive end to bear bile farming”, Jill says. “Vietnam is the first country to make bear farming totally illegal. On behalf of supporters across the world, I want to extend a sincere thank you to the Government of Vietnam and to the Vietnam Traditional Medicine Association, who has also made a concerted effort to see no more prescription or sale of bear bile today. I also want to thank our friends from other organisations, journalists, and celebrity friends for supporting and witnessing this remarkable step. Together, we can all be proud that bears will soon never again see the world through cage bars or suffer the agony of bile extraction – no bear will be left behind.”

Animals Asia was joined virtually by global superstars including Dame Judi Dench, Joaquin Phoenix, Ricky Gervais, James Cromwell, Stephen Fry, Peter Egan, Kesha, Jimmi Simpson, Rick Wakeman, and acclaimed conservationist Dr Jane Goodall, DBE with their video statements to support Animals Asia in this monumental step. Additionally on the ground in Vietnam were actresses Tara Buck, Torrey DeVitto, Marina Squerciati and award-winning photographer Katarina Benzova.

The new sanctuary in Vietnam will leave no bears behind

The new sanctuary is a major milestone for the organisation as it brings it on the verge of ending the cruel practice of bear bile farming in the country. The practice has been pushing Asiatic black bears (aka moon bears), and sun bears towards extinction in the country, as The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the species as vulnerable to extinction, with an overall estimated decline of 31% for the last 30 years.

The most up-to-date surveys show there are around 310 bears still on farms in Vietnam. After signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Vietnamese Government in 2017, the organisation has begun to rescue these remaining bears and the bile farms have been closed for good one by one in the country. Animals Asia’s award-winning current bear rescue centre in Tam Dao, Vietnam, is now approaching its full capacity; the organisation is about to break ground for a new sanctuary to start rescuing the remaining bears on farms.

This new 12-hectare sanctuary will sit within the beautiful, mountainous surroundings of the Bach Ma National Park and eventually be home to the all rescued bears. Once the last bear is saved, this trade will be history for Vietnam, and will set a precedent for other countries in the region to follow. And for Animals Asia, it will be the achievement of one of their founding goals – to end bear bile farming in Vietnam.

The star-studded event in Vietnam unveiled Vietnam’s last bear sanctuary

In order to raise awareness of this monumental step in biodiversity protection, the organisation’s high-profile supporters around the world travelled to Vietnam for the unveiling ceremony of the new sanctuary. The acclaimed film stars Tara Buck (True Blood), Torrey DeVitto (The Vampire Diaries, Chicago Med), Marina Squerciati (Chicago P.D), reality television personality Josh Packham (Love Island), award-winning photographer Katarina Benzova, and Vietnamese actress Tang Thanh Ha visited the organisation’s current sanctuary in Tam Dao on the 24th and 25th of May.

Now home to nearly 200 bears, the centre is a model of successful collaboration between an NGO and government working together to protect and conserve endangered and threatened bear species.

Guided by Jill Robinson, Vietnam Country Director Tuan Bendixsen, and Bear & Vet Team Director Heidi Quine, the stars had the opportunity to discover and enjoy life in the sanctuary in Tam Dao. They observed the bears foraging, playing, taking a bubble bath, and the organisation’s expert staff told them about the bear care and enrichment programmes. The group also visited the herbal garden on the Tan Dong primary school premises, where the students cultivate herbal alternatives to bear bile and learn more about protecting the species through Animals Asia’s comprehensive educational programme.

Animals Asia and their celebrity supporters then attended the blue riband event on the 27th of May which revealed the plans for the new sanctuary in Bach Ma. The event featured the organisation’s high-profile supporters via videos, such as Joaquin Phoenix, Ricky Gervais, Dame Judi Dench, Stephen Fry, Peter Egan, Kesha, Jimmi Simpson, Rick Wakeman, Alan Cumming, and Dr Jane Goodall, DBE who lent their voices to this fantastic cause. Gervais recently announced that he donated £142,414.47 to Animals Asia from the platinum ticket sales of his stand-up show ‘Supernature’.

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