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Illegal Bear Bile Farming: Nghe An Province, Vietnam

An Undercover Conservation Investigation into Illegally Trafficked Asiatic Black Bears in the Nghe An Province

Our founder's undercover wildlife investigation into illegal bear bile farming documented with evidence

In the shadows of Quynh Yen, Quynh Luu, Nghe An Province, Vietnam, an undercover conservation investigation unearthed the horrors of two neighbouring illegal bear bile farms. These illegally trafficked bears endure wretched conditions, confined to tiny cages, and are kept alive by antibiotics. Their path to freedom is fraught with challenges. Rescue efforts are often dangerous, and a web of deception and concealment shrouds the bears. Despite these obstacles, compassionate individuals and organisations are fighting for the liberation of the Nghe An Province bears. 

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Boo the Bear

Boo the Bear and the case of the Nghe An 13 Bears is rapidly becoming a poster child for Vietnam's runaway illegal wildlife trade.  In an unusual move, the detailed facts of this investigation have been made public to aid supporting governments and NGOs to take action.  

The case has won an Honourable Mention in the International Photography AwardsDeeper Perspective and a short film about the case called Lawless Lands was chosen to be screened at the International Vegan Film Festival 2020.  It has also featured in several publications including The Diplomat. 

An Overview of the Case 

An undercover conservation investigation discovered two closely located illegal bear farms on August 2018 in Quynh Yen, Quynh Luu, Nghe An Province, Vietnam.  Farm 1 contained nine bears and Farm 2 contained four bears. 

On 30th May 2019, the Nghe An Authorities finally persuaded Nguyen Duc Duy to release three of the nine bears on Farm 1 after a violent riot and attempted kidnap.

  

Although Duc Duy claims that of the remaining six bears on Farm 1, three are legal and the other three have damaged microchips, the evidence below reveals that they are unchipped, were poached from Laos and are being used for commercial bile extraction.

Evidence that the Bears are Illegal 

1. Bears Visibly Too Young to Be Legal

A 2005 microchip programme registered all captive bears in Vietnam. This means legally owned bears are at least 15 years old. The investigation revealed that the 9 bears on Farm 1 were small, young and therefore illegal. Farm 2 had one smaller bear and 3 slightly larger ones. The larger bears did not show any obvious signs of adulthood/ageing eg: broken teeth, calloused paws and the long-haired neck ruff was only visible when roused to aggression. - See photos and videos.

2. Microchip Excuses Are Irrelevant

As the bears were visibly too young to be legal, Duc Duy's claims that microchips were broken are irrelevant. The Nghe An Authorities should therefore have confiscated the bears immediately and without question. 

​3. Rescue Team Confirms Bears Are Illegal

Whilst rescuing 3 bears from Farm 1, Emily Lloyd from Four Paws stated: “It was pretty sad to have to leave the others behind, especially seeing that some were also young and therefore illegal bears." 

4. No registered Bear Cubs in Nghe An Province

A common excuse when caught with illegal bear cubs/adolescents is to claim they were born on the farm. This is not possible as "based on microchipping data, there are no bear cubs in Quynh Luu or in any farm in Nghe An Province."

5. Nguyen Duc Duy Admits Bears Are Illegal

See video/audio entitled ‘Wildlife Farmer Admits Bears Are Illegal.' The translator states that Duc Duy reveals in the video that some of his bears used to be microchipped but that none of them are now.

6. Oxford University Academic Confirms Bears Are Illegal

To corroborate the attending Vietnamese translator, an Oxford Academic translates the ‘Wildlife Farmer Admits Bears Are Illegal"          video/audio.  He states: Duc Duy “admitted that they first bought these bears illegally”. Duc Duy “is aware that he is keeping the bears illegally”.

7. Farmer Admits to Buying Bear Cubs from Laos

See video below entitled 'Vietnamese Translator's Evidence.' The farmer admitted to the translator that he bought the bears as 1kg cubs from Laos. As Asiatic Black Bears are CITES Appendix I species this breaks international conservation laws. Duc Duy also said the bears were all aged 3 - 5 years old. There was also a  7-month-old cub. 

8. Wildlife Crime Unit (ENV) Corroborates Information

Education for Nature Vietnam's Wildlife Crime Unit carried out their own independent undercover investigation on Farm 1 before attempting to confiscate the bears.  An investigation into Farm 2 was never carried out!

9. Duc Duy Tries to Get the Bears Microchipped

Duc Duy approached an NGO to get the bears microchipped after the initial investigation put his illegal wildlife business on the map.

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Evidence of Commercial Level Exploitation 

1. Duc Duy Illegally Extracts Large Quantities of Bile

Although it is illegal to extract bile, the Authorities are more likely to act  if one can prove it is commercially motivated.

The video entitled 'Illegal Wildlife Farmer Extracts Bile' shows Duc Duy extracting approximately 300ml of bile from three bears on Farm 2.  Bile must be kept in a fridge and used relatively quickly.  As bile is used in1ml bottles, a family could not use 300ml before its sell by date. At approx $2 per ml, 300ml would make Duc Duy about $600.

2. Bear Bile Production Line

See photos of people bottling and labelling bile in Nguyen Duc Duy’s  dining room. The man in baseball cap is cutting labels to fix to bottles.  One does not need to label bile bottles for personal use. Labelling shows a clear intention of selling for commercial gain. 

​3. Online Illegal Wildlife Platform and Bear Bile Hotline 

The bile from the two Nghe Province farms is sold via an online shop  and 24 hour bear bile hotline located in Hanoi. Releasing these details may cause the bears to be killed so to protect them, they are being withheld. The Hanoi bear bile dealer is called Tran Quang Hong. His brother, Tran Quang Huan, works on Duc Duy's bear bile farms in Nghe An Province.

4. Online Illegal Wildlife Platform Linked to Network of Legal Businesses

The online illegal wildlife platform is part of a national network of legal businesses. Details are being withheld from this site to protect future operations.