Have you ever been to Halong Bay?
I’ve read many of my fellow travel bloggers’ stories from this enchanting place in Vietnam and for a long time I’ve longed to go there, to taste the delicious cuisine, to learn about local culture, to witness its breathtaking natural beauty and to sail across Halong Bay.
But, as I found out recently, there is a darker side to Halong Bay, that I’m sure no tourists or travellers know anything about.
Moon Bear Bile Farming
I can clearly remember how I first came across Animals Asia, a couple of years ago and learnt about the horrors of bear bile farming. I had been admiring the work of wildlife painter Joanna May, who has supported many wildlife projects over the years, including Animals Asia. I watched a video which quite literally broke my heart. I’d never even heard of Asian Black Bears before or moon bears as they have been nicknamed because of the cream crescent under their chins.
I’ve been a supporter of Animals Asia ever since I saw that first video. From what I have learnt since they are adorable, fun-loving bears but many never get the chance to live the lives they should.
In Vietnam and China the bile from these bears is highly sort after to be used in traditional Chinese Medicine. Young bears are put into cages where they spend the rest of their lives attached to a tube through which bile is collected. These beautiful bears can never stand up, let alone run around, unless they are rescued by Animals Asia.
The videos of the bears in the bile farms will break your heart, so please don’t watch this if you think it will upset you too much – it’s gruesome – you don’t need to watch it to support the moon bears.
The videos of the rescued bears, on the other hand, are an absolute joy to watch.
The Bears of Halong Bay
Towards the end of last year Animals Asia were able to visit the bile farm in Halong Bay where they found 27 moon bears living in terrible conditions. Since their visit 4 have already died and they believe the remaining 23 bears are literally at death’s door. I’m adding my voice to their campaign and have signed a petition to the Vietnamese Prime Minister to close Cau Trang bear bile farm and release the bears into the care of Animals Asia. They already have the facilities to look after the remaining critically ill bears in their sanctuary.
I’m calling on the travel blogging community (many of whom have been or like me, long to go to Halong Bay) and to all of you to add your voice to this campaign.
Please sign the petition, tweet about it, share it on Facebook
and help Animals Asia to save the Halong Bay Bears.
Update: April 2015
Fabulous news! Thanks to everyone who signed this petition, as you will see from Cid’s comment below, the Halong Bears are going to be saved. When I read Cid’s words I could have cried with happiness. You can read more about this and follow the bears’ progress on Animals Asia’s website.