Asiatic black bear cubs saved from illegal wildlife trade in Vietnam

Two Asiatic black bear cubs are recovering after authorities in Lai Chau province in Vietnam confiscated the animals from a man intending to sell them. 

Vietnamese authorities questioned the man, who was carrying a sack containing the female cubs. The man confessed that he caught the cubs in a cardamom field and was intending to sell them. He was arrested and the cubs were taken to safety.  

“Asiatic black bears are native to Vietnam and on the brink of local extinction because of poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, where demand for their parts and derivatives remains,” said Elize Parker, media officer at the global animal welfare organisation, Four Paws South Africa. 

Last week, the animal welfare organisation’s team in Vietnam transported the cubs in an 11-hour journey from Lai Chau to its sanctuary in Ninh Binh. 

Bé and Em, who are probably siblings, “will receive all the care they need to grow into healthy bears. Four Paws welcomes the efforts of the Vietnamese authorities to enforce existing laws and combat wildlife crime,” according to a press statement

In 2018, Mail & Guardian reported that the number of captive bears in Vietnam had dropped dramatically since 2005, from about 4 500 to less than 800 today.  

Emily Lloyd, an animal manager at Bear Sanctuary Ninh Binh, said that Bé and Em “are very small, only weighing 2.4 and 3.3 kilogrammes, but otherwise they are in good health. We will provide them with an appropriate diet so they can grow up healthy. Now they mostly eat, play, and sleep.”

Both cubs were also starting to display individual personalities, said Lloyd. Bé is playful and confident, while Em is more reserved, “but nonetheless curious”. 

Bé and Em cannot be reintroduced to the wild. 

“There are no safe wild places in Vietnam and no projects set up to reintroduce bear cubs into the wild. Moreover, the preparation of cubs for life in the wild is a huge undertaking. At Bear Sanctuary Ninh Binh, they will have a life-long and species-appropriate home,” according to Four Paws. 

Bé and Em are the sanctuary’s fifth rescued hand-raised bear cubs. In total, it houses 49 Asiatic black bears.

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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