Following Vietnamese MS ENV’s investigation into continuing bear bile tourism, the national government has ordered an end to the practice and threatened tough action for offenders.
In a communication sent out this week, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism spelled out that tour companies engaged in so-called bear bile tourism risk losing their business licences. The letter was sent out nationwide following ENV’s expose last month of bear owners in the touristic province of Quang Ninh who continue to extract bear bile – much of which is bought by Korean tourists.
“This is fantastic news and clearly demonstrates that the government of Vietnam sees the damage bear farming is causing their tourist industry. We urge the authorities to now step up their efforts to ensure an end to the farming of thousands of bears across the country for their bile," said Dave Eastham WSPA Captive Bears Campaign Leader.
Government recognizes bear bile harms tourism
According to the Government's communication, the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) requires that: "All the provincial Departments of Sports, Culture and Tourism are to promote awareness raising activities and the responsibilities of businesses in protecting wild animals. They are to seriously implement the recommendations from international communities and national agencies involved in wildlife protection and are to cooperate with the authorities to treat all violations in accordance with the law."
The VNAT then states that the same departments are "to prohibit all travel companies that organize tours that take tourists to bear farms where bears are illegally kept and bear bile is extracted. For a serious violation, VNAT will consider withdrawing the company's International Travel Business License". The document also warns that the bear bile industry "negatively influences the friendly and attractive image of the country and people of Vietnam and also harms the healthy and sustainable content of activities of local tourism".
Tran Viet Hung, ENV Vice Director from ENV said "Authorities have been aware of illegal bear bile tourism for a long time, but it has taken an article to be published and put into public view for them to take action. We welcome the stern words from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and expect to see prosecutions of the very visible perpetrators of this illegal industry."
Contravenes national and international law
WSPA and ENV, together with NGOs Free the Bears and Animals Asia Foundation, jointly lobby as the Vietnam Bear Task Force to prevent illegal bear bile tourism in Vietnam. Outlawed bear bile is still widely available in the country, where approximately 3,000 bears, almost all stolen from the wild, continue to be kept under terrible conditions in bear 'farms', also prohibited by Vietnamese law since 2005.
Vietnam is a member of the United Nations' Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna CITES, committing it to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. The Asiatic black bear is most commonly used in bile extraction and is listed in the appendix of CITES.
Additionally, under the Vietnamese Government's Decree 32/2006, bears are listed as an endangered species and owning and selling bears or their by-products is illegal.
Vietnam's most profitable tourist resort of Ha Long City in north-eastern Quang Ninh Province continues to be one of the most popular destinations for Korean tourists to witness extractions and purchase bile to illegally transport back to Korea. WSPA hopes this crackdown will signal an end to such businesses.