A bear forced to live alone in a small cage for 20 years in Vietnam has finally been released to safety.

From darkness to light: moon bear Chinh finally freed after 20 years of captive cruelty

Press release

A bear forced to live alone in a small cage for 20 years in Vietnam has finally been released to safety.

Chinh, the Asiatic black bear - or moon bear – thought to be at least 20 years old, was rescued on Friday (10th May) by FOUR PAWS, supported by World Animal Protection and the Vietnam Forest Protection Department (FPD). Chinh is now at FOUR PAWS bear sanctuary in Ninh Binh for specialist care, after his owner was persuaded to surrender him.

This rescue forms part of a World Animal Protection and FPD programme which monitors bear bile farms across Vietnam. Bears found to be without a microchip and/or registration papers are deemed illegal and confiscated. This ensures no new bears from the wild or other sources enter captivity for the bile industry, where bear bile is used in traditional Asian medicine. The programme also works to persuade bear owners to voluntarily surrender these majestic animals to sanctuaries.

Fourteen bears have previously been surrendered from this farm between 2019 and 2022, with Chinh now the fifteenth and final bear. Bears like Chinh have been caught-up in the bear bile industry until 2005, when the practice became illegal. However, a legal loophole allows bear owners to keep their bears as 'pets', meaning that some 200 bears in the country still suffer a tortuous life in captivity. This situation has provided cover for illegal bile extraction in Vietnam.

This rescue involved a dedicated veterinary team from FOUR PAWS and local authorities who collaborated in this complex mission. The team reviewed Chinh’s health and condition, before making a final decision about how best to transport him without undue stress. It is sometimes necessary to anesthetize bears for their safety and comfort – this was not required for Chinh as he moved immediately into the transport crate.

Chinh’s new life will be far removed from his tiny 1.5m x 1.5m steel cage, which left him little room to move around. The FOUR PAWS sanctuary is a semi-wild location, allowing the resident bears a wide-open space of 5.5 hectares to roam and play freely, and designed with enrichments to stimulate the bears’ natural behaviours.

Thanks to such collaborative efforts, there are now more bears in sanctuaries run by NGOs and government rescue centres than on farms in Vietnam. For almost 20 years, World Animal Protection, alongside other NGOs have worked with the Vietnamese government to end the cruel practice of bear bile farming, and to protect the small population of bears remaining in the wild. Collective efforts have resulted in a 95% reduction in the number of bile bears in Vietnam, from 4,300 bears recorded in 2005 to 200 bears on farms today.

Maya Pastakia, International Campaign Manager at World Animal Protection said:


The exploitation of captive bears for their bile is one of the worst examples of animal cruelty in the world today. Each and every bear we manage to free from small, barren cages is a massive win.

Chinh was just a small bear cub when he arrived to be used for bear bile. He has suffered a terrible life in captivity for 20 years, experiencing both physical and psychological trauma. Trapped in a tiny cage, unable to see the sun or roam and behave freely, as he would in the wild, he would have had his bile frequently extracted which involves a painful process of extracting bile from the gallbladder.

It must have been incredibly distressing for Chinh to witness 14 other bears leaving the farm and to be the last bear remaining. We are relieved that at least there’s one less bear bile farm in Vietnam and we will continue our fight to end bear bile farming in the country.

The Vietnamese government must close all remaining legal loopholes to end the suffering of bile bears for good. We must ensure this is the last generation of bears to suffer in appalling captive conditions. Chinh deserves the rehabilitation on offer at FOUR PAWS sanctuary in Ninh Binh, and a life of greater dignity.


Lesley Halter-Gölkel, a veterinarian at FOUR PAWS, said:


Upon rescue, Chinh was calm. He has already taken some food from us including bananas and morning glory. He has acute tartar and fractured upper canines. His claws are very long, and he has severe hyperkeratosis on his footpads which is caused by standing on metal bars over the last years.

Chinh also has alopecia on his head from stereotypical behavior. From observation, we assume that he has typical disease related to bile farming - but we will perform a full health check under anesthesia including general clinical examination blood examination, X-ray, ultrasound, and endoscopy at our sanctuary veterinary clinic.


Note to editors:

For an interview with World Animal Protection spokesperson, contact: Peter Simpson at petersimpson@worldanimalprotection.org

Credit all Images: World Animal Protection/ One Touch Connections

· Read more about bear bile farming in World Animal Protection’s report, Cruel Cures here.

· In Vietnam, 200 bears are on farms and 335 bears in rescue centres and sanctuaries, as of May 2024

· Chinh was rescued from a farm in Binh Duong province.

The Situation in Vietnam for Bears

Bear bile is used in Traditional Asian Medicine and is believed to treat abscesses, haemorrhoids, epilepsy and cysts. The suffering is wholly unjustified as herbal and synthetic alternatives are all readily available. The bear bile industry has led to poaching of wild bears over the past 40 years leading to a sharp decline in the numbers of bears in the wild in Asia.

The Government of Vietnam outlawed bear bile farming in 2005. At that time 4,300 bears were held on farms. All had to be microchipped and registered, to prevent new bears entering the farms, and it became illegal to extract their bile. However, it is still legal to keep bears on farms and illegal bear bile production continues behind closed doors.

The Role of World Animal Protection

Since 2006, in collaboration with authorities, World Animal Protection has been providing equipment and training for microchipping bears in Vietnam, introducing new cutting-edge microchipping technology in 2015, and working on an extensive monitoring programme of farms, which continues to this day.

Thanks to this monitoring, bears that are identified without a microchip and/or registration papers, deeming them illegal, are confiscated. They are then moved by authorities to government rescue centres or by Four Paws, Free the Bears and Animals Asia Foundation, to one of their sanctuaries. Farm inspections also provide our team with the opportunity to persuade farmers to surrender bears that are deemed legal on farms to sanctuaries and recue centres.

World Animal Protection, working with the authorities and our local partner, Education for Nature Vietnam, continues to play a key role identifying and confiscating illegal bears or convincing bear owners to voluntarily surrender their bears. The monitoring programme has been integral component in moving Vietnam to end bear bile farming, and thanks to collective efforts, today there are more bears in sanctuaries and rescue centres than on farms. Our aim is to ensure the Vietnam Government closes all bear farms and transfers any remaining bears to sanctuaries and rescues centres by end of 2025, so that this is the last generation of bears to suffer a life in captivity.

About World Animal Protection

World Animal Protection is the global voice for animal welfare, with more than 70 years’ experience campaigning for a world where animals live free from cruelty and suffering.

We have offices in 12 countries and work across 47 countries. We collaborate with local communities, the private sector, civil society, and governments to change animals’ lives for the better. Our goal is to change the way the world works to end animal cruelty and suffering for both wild and farmed animals. Through our global food system strategy, we will end factory farming and create a humane and sustainable food system, that puts animals first. By transforming the broken systems that fuel exploitation and commodification, we will give wild animals the right to a wildlife. Our work to protect animals will play a vital role in solving the climate emergency, the public health crisis, and the devastation of natural habitats.

About Four Paws

FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. In Vietnam, FOUR PAWS leads bear rescues and provides a species-appropriate home for these animals at BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh. Currently it is home to 45 Asiatic black bears, with expansion to increase the size of the facility well advanced.

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