Archive for the ‘Asia’ Tag

“Moon bears don’t feel pain” and other moon bear myths   Leave a comment

From:  AnimalsAsia

Januay 27, 2015 by Sarah Dempsey

Bear Manager Sarah Dempsey has spent over two years caring for moon bears at Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre – making her perfectly placed to put the record straight about these wonderful, charismatic animals.

1/ There aren’t bears in Vietnam, are there?

Yes, bears are native to Vietnam! One of the first things I hear when I say I work with bears at Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre is: “I didn’t know there were bears in Vietnam?” Well, yes there are!

Asiatic black bears are native to Vietnam and throughout southern Asia from Pakistan to the islands of Japan. There are also other species of bears native to Asia and these include the smallest of the bear species, also native to Vietnam, sun bears (of which we have eight at our Vietnam Sanctuary).

Other bears in Asia include sloth bears and probably the most famous and easily recognisable, giant pandas.


Misty (latterly Nora JamJack) and Rain playing at VBRC, 2012

2/ So Asiatic black bears are the same as North American black bears right?

Wrong! Asiatic black bears and American black bears are close relatives – closer than the six other living bear species – though there are notable differences. Similar in size to the American black bears, their fur is longer giving them a shaggier appearance often characterised by the long “ruff’ which most Asiatic black bears have around the neck.

In northern parts of their range, Asiatic black bears tend to hibernate, but in the southern limits of their range they’re less likely to. Meanwhile American black bears hibernate throughout the extent of their range and lack the characteristic moon–shaped crescent of pale yellow fur on their chest. And the nicest thing of all, unlike the smaller ears of American black bears, Asiatic black bears have the ears that have earned them the nickname of Mickey Mouse bears!

Thao - a glorious handsome moon bear at VBRC

3/ All bears are carnivores right? 

Wrong! Like many other bear species, moon bears belong to the order Carnivora but are omnivores. Greenery ­– or browse – from trees makes up the bulk of their wild diet along with fruits and available vegetables such as sweet potato and corn. In smaller amounts they also enjoy insects, small mammals, fish and reptiles. They are incredibly opportunistic foragers, so food which humans have left behind makes its way in there too!

At Animals Asia we try to replicate (the healthier parts) of a wild diet by providing the bears with daily native browse such as bamboo, jack fruit and ficus, fruits, vegetables and a small amount of dry dog food. As we keep them in semi-wild enclosures there is often the opportunity to forage for insects too, particularly termites, ants and earthworms. In the wild their diet also adheres to seasonal trends so we replicate this to the best of our ability by offering seasonal soft fruits in summer and chestnuts in winter.

One of their absolute favorite foods both in the wild and here is honey, very much like the most famous bear of all! Though as this is a rarer and highly prized treat for wild bears, we also only use honey as an occasional high-ranking reward.

Mema eating browse

4/ Bears are highly aggressive and therefore difficult to work with

Although Asiatic black bears have some notoriety for being aggressive when they come into contact with people in the wild (mainly if someone accidentally gives them a fright, or comes between a mother and cubs) this is actually a benefit in countries where they are frequently poached to be sold into the bear bile trade, and is far from true if captive bears are managed appropriately.

When we rescue bears and bring them to our centres they will eventually be integrated into larger groups in bear houses that enjoy the benefits of large semi-wild enclosures. We use positive reinforcement to allow us to manage them easily in this type of setting.

This is the process of increasing the chance of a behavior recurring by rewarding it. We use small pieces of fruit as rewards for bears when we need to move them between dens and in or out of the enclosures.

We do the same when we need to see a bear close up for a quick health inspection or when a problem is reported, and also to weigh our bears on a regular basis. We find that when working with bears this way and always providing them with choice, we see calm bears that seem to enjoy interacting with staff and some love weigh days so much we struggle to get them to go back out when we’ve finished!

Thomas, Taz and Georges  with a swing 7

5/ Bears don’t feel pain, right?

Very wrong! In February 2013, the China Daily quoted the China Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as saying, “The process of extracting bear bile was as easy, natural and painless as turning on a tap. After the operation was done, bears went out to play happily.” This is – as you can imagine – absolutely incorrect. Bile is extracted using various painful, invasive techniques, all of which cause massive infection.

The pain bears on farms are clearly suffering from is often characterised not only by their physical condition but also by self-mutilation, noise, aggression, stereotypic behaviours (repetitive behaviours which serve no purpose but are commonly thought of as a coping mechanism) and in some animals complete apathy, all of which can be commonly seen in bears on bile farms.

A bile extraction site on a moon bear





Hundreds of animals seized in operation targeting wildlife trafficking across Asia   2 comments

From:  InterPol

Dec. 19, 2014

LYON, France – A five-month long INTERPOL-coordinated operation targeting wildlife trafficking in tigers and other big cats across Asia has resulted in the seizure of hundreds of animals and more than 160 arrests.

Involving 13 countries, Operation PAWS (Protection of Asian Wildlife Species) also focused on lesser known species also in high demand by the black market, such as bears and pangolins. Wildlife traders using the internet and social media in certain countries were also investigated.

Among the live animals recovered were tigers, leopards, bears, monkeys, red pandas, lions and crocodiles in addition to 3,500 kg of elephant ivory, 280kg of pangolin scales, rhino horns and more than 4,000 kg of red sandalwood. A large number of turtles, tortoises and birds were also seized across a wide range of countries indicating a high demand for these species.

Designed and developed by the involved member countries as a collaborative law enforcement response to wildlife crime, Operation PAWS was coordinated by INTERPOL’s Environmental security unit as part of Project Predator, in addition to support from the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC).

Aimed at supporting and enhancing the governance and law enforcement capacity for the conservation of Asian big cats, INTERPOL’s Project Predator is primarily funded by the United States Agency for International Development.

The 13 countries which participated in Operation PAWS which was conducted between July and November were Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam. It was also supported by Australia, Canada and the USA.

Live tigers, leopards, bears, lions and crocodiles in addition to 3,500 kg of elephant ivory, 280kg of pangolin scales, tiger skins and rhino horns were seized during the five-month long Operation PAWS. © Indonesia



A five-month long INTERPOL-coordinated operation targeting wildlife trafficking in tigers and other big cats across Asia has resulted in the seizure of hundreds of animals and more than 160 arrests. © Vietnam


As well as tigers and other Asian big cats Operation PAWS (Protection of Asian Wildlife Species) also focused on lesser known species also in high demand by the black market, such as bears and pangolins. © Vietnam


Hundreds of animals were seized in an INTERPOL coordinated operation targeting wildlife trafficking across Asia. © Malaysia




From:  Our Hen House – Change the World for Animals

By Visiting Animal — December 16, 2014

Jill in 1993

Animals Asia founder and CEO Jill Robinson (as heard on the Our Hen House podcast – Episode #199) first witnessed the cruelty of bear bile farming in 1993. Since then, she has worked tirelessly to end the industry. Animals Asia’s “Healing without Harm” program continues to collaborate with traditional medicine practitioners to end the demand for bear bile. Today on Our Hen House, Jill shares with us her experience with traditional medicine practitioners who also want to end the cruelty. 


My Wildest Dreams Come True: Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctors Say No to Cruelty

by Dr. Jill Robinson

Only in my wildest dreams did I think I would witness traditional Chinese medicine doctors burning bear bile in the streets of Chengdu. But that is exactly what happened in 2010 when Animals Asia began our Healing without Harm campaign. At that time, a small but determined group of Chinese doctors decided they wanted to finally speak out against the practice of bear bile farming, so these ambassadors voted with their businesses and their profits, and agreed to never sell or prescribe bear bile again. Four chains of pharmacies, comprising 33 shops, came on board during that monumental year. Movingly, groups of students also joined in by campaigning against the industry. Launching banner exhibitions in their universities, these passionate students publicly voiced their opposition to the farming of bears for the extraction of their bile. It appeared as though things were beginning to change for these majestic bears who stole my heart and set me on my life’s mission, so many years ago.

Photo Courtesy Animals Asia

Bear bile farming is not a traditional practice. In fact, it began in China in the early 1980s as a “solution” to the problem of endangered moon bears being killed in the wild for their gallbladders. Tragically, this “solution” was a horrifying one, resulting in thousands of bears being caged – many hunted from the wild – and surgically mutilated with crude metal or latex catheters inserted into their abdomens and gallbladders. Later, a new, so-called “humane” method of bile extraction was sanctioned by the authorities: A gaping hole was cut into the bear’s abdomen and gallbladder, allowing bile to drip out of a wound that never healed.

In addition to these brutalities, bears on bile farms are often subjected to cruel and painful procedures to eliminate any possibility that they can fight back. Their teeth are cut back to gum level. Their paw tips are hacked away to make them less dangerous. And aside from the mutilations imposed upon them, many bears self-mutilate by constantly banging or rubbing their heads against cage bars.

Although there has been some recognition that these practices are wrong, there is no easy fix. Bear farming is now actually illegal in Vietnam, but, nevertheless, the practice continues. In fact, there remain some 2,000 bears left on farms. Many still have their bile illegally extracted after being subjected to a crude anesthesia using illegal drugs. The semi-conscious bears are then jabbed with a four-inch needle until the bile is found. It is drawn from the bodies via a mechanical pump.

Photo by Peter Yuen

Animals Asia has rescued over 500 bears from this industry. We have been instrumental in the development ofsanctuaries in China and Vietnam – and we are currently facilitating theongoing conversion of transitioning a bear farm to a sanctuary in Nanning, China. This latest rescue followed a brave bear farmer’s very public assertion that the industry is both “cruel and hopeless.”

Fundamental to this rescue – and to our ongoing evidence of how bear bile farming exploits and kills members of endangered species of bears – is our work with the traditional medicine community. One of our most successful campaigns is Healing without Harm, a campaign collaborating with practitioners of traditional medicine, independent pharmacists, and pharmacy chains. The campaign also engages collaborations with pathologists and liver specialists in China and Vietnam to gather evidence on the implications for human health of consuming contaminated bile from diseased farm bears.

As the Council Member of the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies Herbal Committee, I have been fortunate to have met many traditional medicine doctors who have no compunction in emphasizing that bear bile has no place in their discipline today. One such practitioner, Lixin Huang, who is Chairman of the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, goes so far as to say, “We ask bear farmers not to use the excuse of traditional medicine as a reason for farming bears, because we do not need bear bile to save patients’ lives.” This is a bold statement, considering that bear bile has been used for thousands of years in Asian pharmacopeia.

HWH practitioner Dr Gao Yimin, a TCM practitioner for more than 50 years​​​​, alongside  Jill

As these practitioners point out, bear bile is simply not needed. In traditional medicine, bear bile’s function is easily replaced by herbs. That is why Animals Asia’s Healing without Harm campaign is making such incredible strides. A press conference this September saw a remarkable 1,945 traditional Chinese medicine shops and pharmacies, pharmaceutical companies, and hospitals joining our efforts. They effectively boycotted bile products, and in doing so, highlighted practitioners’ respect of – and duty to protect – China’s bears. The comments made at that press conference showed the enormous support within the traditional medicine community. In the words of Sun Weidong, the Director of the Changsha Food and Drug Administration:

To take other animals lives is like taking our own lives and, on behalf of Changsha FDA, I pay my respect to all the pharmaceutical industries who are respecting life, caring for animals, refusing bear bile products, and saying no to animal cruelty. To regulate animal medicine and promote the continued development of medicine and ecology, we need to research synthetic alternatives of animal medicines, and do our best to protect animals.

Photo by Peter Yuen

Similarly, the Vietnamese Traditional Medicine Association has, along with Animals Asia, produced a booklet for their members highlighting the 32 herbal alternatives to bear bile, and have pledged to see bear bile usage reduced to less than five per cent by the end of 2016. Hopefully, this escalating support will not only help the bears suffering on farms, but will aid those in the wild, too. After all, the most important underlying principle behind Chinese medicine is to take the easy, avoid the difficult, and “be compatible with nature.” These are ideas that anyone who cares about animals can stand behind. Whether fighting for animal rights, or for the conservation of endangered species – or for the preservation and development of traditional Chinese medicine – we each can find common ground. Even the bear farmers themselves increasingly appear trapped in an industry that they’d love to escape.

To the bears in those tiny cages, the benefits of Healing without Harm are obvious. But, with a common vision, this campaign should actually serve all parties, and our challenge and mission is to achieve that. Only then can bear bile farming finally be a nightmare of the past.

Perhaps my dreams are not so wild after all.



Animals Asia founder and CEO Dr. Jill Robinson arrived in Hong Kong in 1985 and spent 12 years working in Asia as a consultant for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Repeatedly faced with scenes of widespread animal cruelty, Jill founded “Dr. Dog” in Hong Kong in 1991 – the first animal-therapy program in Asia. In 1993, a visit to a bear farm in southern China changed her life forever. Discovering the plight of endangered Asiatic black bears (also known as moon bears), Jill embarked on a journey to end the practice of bear farming once and for all. In 1998, she founded Animals Asia, an organization that is devoted to ending the barbaric practice of bear bile farming and improving the welfare of animals in China and Vietnam by promoting compassion and respect for all animals, and working to bring about long-term change. Animals Asia began as a small group working out of Jill’s front room. She has since built the organization into a respected international NGO with over 300 staff members, an annual turnover of more than $9 million, and award-winning bear sanctuaries in China and Vietnam. Animals Asia is headquartered in Hong Kong, with offices in Australia, China, Germany, Italy, the U.K., the U.S., and Vietnam.



Vietnam gets tough on illegal cross-border dog trading   1 comment

Reblogged from AnimalsAsia:

13 February 2014

Dogs trafficked in Vietnam

Vietnam’s Department of Animal Health has issued a directive ordering provincial authorities to crack down on the illegal trafficking of dogs for human consumption as rabies concerns rise. The action will help put an end to the cruel and inhumane dog meat trade in this region.

The move follows a ground-breaking meeting in Hanoi last August, when members of the Asia Canine Protection Alliance met with the authorities of Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos agreed to consider a five-year moratorium on the commercial transport of dogs from one country to another. ACPA is made up of Change For Animals FoundationHumane Society International, Animals Asia and Soi Dog Foundation.

The DAH directive specifically instructs DAH sub departments to strengthen the inspection and prevention of illegal import, transport and trade of animals or animal products. The government has also instructed the DAH to work with international organisations to raise awareness about the dangers of consuming dog meat, and the illegality of much of the cross border trade.

Tuan Bendixsen, Vietnam director for Animals Asia said:

“The dog meat trade has long been characterised by cruelty and corruption. Companion animals and strays are snatched and crammed into cages to be transported long distances. Their proximity and lack of care means diseases are rife. They are dangerous to those who choose to eat them and dangerous to anyone who comes into contact with them. Vietnam has long been the destination for trafficked dogs, from surrounding countries – if governments are serious about stopping trafficking then the corrupt and unregulated dog industry is the obvious place to start.”

Kelly O’Meara, director of companion animals and engagement with Humane Society International stated:

“This new directive is a big step in ending this cruel and illegal trade of dogs over international borders. ACPA intends to assist the Vietnam government to insure this new directive is implemented to its fullest, preventing the intense suffering of thousands of dogs and the further spread of rabies”.

“Given the dog meat trade involves the only current mass movement of known or suspected rabies-infected dogs, there is a strong argument to stop the cycle of infection by banning this trade entirely,” continues Lola Webber, Programmes Leader for Change For Animals Foundation.

While the unregulated trade of dogs into Vietnam has been illegal since 2009, limited resources have meant the law is often unenforced and has remained, until now, a low priority. It is estimated that up to 5 million dogs are slaughtered in Vietnam every year for human consumption. All countries in the region have already banned the transport of dogs without evidence of rabies vaccinations, health certificates, export licenses and proof of origin.

“The Government of Vietnam is to be applauded for taking this initiative, and we hope other countries in the region will follow this lead. Many people cite culture in defence of the trade, but rabies and cholera and other diseases associated with it are no respecters of culture”, explains John Dalley, Vice President of Soi Dog Foundation.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has pledged to wipe out rabies in the region by 2020. Rabies is responsible for the deaths of up to 29,000 people in Asia every year. Rabies cannot be eliminated from the region without provincial authorities stopping illegal dog trafficking.


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Boost Your Yang By Eating Dog Penis?   Leave a comment

I have to say I really HATE these outdated cultural beliefs – they are costing so many animals their lives, and for what? None of the so called remedies made from animal parts have any effect at all!


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