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Asiatic black bears Xuan and Mo spent years in the basement of a clothing shop with no access to sunshine or fresh air

By Kelli Bender
March 24, 2021 05:46 PM
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bears saved from bile farm
Credit: Hoang Le/FOUR PAWS

Xuan and Mo have felt the sun again.

On Tuesday, FOUR PAWS rescued the Asiatic black bears from some of the worst conditions the animal welfare organization has seen.

According to a FOUR PAWS release about the effort, rescuers found Xuan and Mo in filthy cages in the basement of a clothing shop in Son La, Vietnam. The bears were kept captive in complete darkness in these grim conditions so their bile could be regularly extracted.

In bear bile farming, bile is painfully taken from Asiatic black bears and then sold to be used in black market medicines and tinctures, FOUR PAWS reported.

The extraction and trade of bear bile are forbidden by law in Vietnam. However, FOUR PAWS believes there are still hundreds of bears like Xuan and Mo that are being kept in Vietnam illegally for bile farming, even though the interest in bear bile has significantly dropped over the past five years.

bears saved from bile farm
Credit: Hoang Le/FOUR PAWS

FOUR PAWS learned during their rescue mission that Xuan likely entered the cage he was found in as a cub and has been kept in the dark for 17 years. It is unclear when Mo entered her basement cage.

According to the release, both bears were kept inside in total unventilated darkness, except for the artificial light used during feedings and the bile extraction process. FOUR PAWS rescuers had to use flashlights to find the animals in their small, rusty cages.

bears saved from bile farm
Credit: Hoang Le/FOUR PAWS

Rescuers carefully removed Xuan and Mo from the windowless basement and took the animals for medical checks. While both bears showed signs of neglect, Xuan and Mo were medically cleared for a 9-hour journey to Vietnam's Bear Sanctuary Ninh Binh.

"It was the first time we have rescued bears from an environment without any natural light and only exposure to artificial light. Despite being exploited for their bile for years, in such horrible conditions, both Mo and Xuan were quite calm and unafraid when we arrived. The health checks for both bears revealed gallbladder disease due to multiple unsanitary and traumatic bile extraction processes carried out on the farm," Szilvia Kalogeropoulu, the FOUR PAWS veterinarian responsible for the rescue and transfer of the two bears, said in a statement.

bears saved from bile farm
Credit: Hoang Le/FOUR PAWS

"In addition, Xuan is overweight, has liver disease, and his teeth are in terrible condition. We will examine them more thoroughly at our sanctuary clinic and determine their best future care. Bears are very resilient, but it will be a long road to recovery nonetheless," says Szilvia Kalogeropoulu, the FOUR PAWS veterinarian responsible for the rescue and transfer of the two bears," she added.

bears saved from bile farm
Credit: Hoang Le/FOUR PAWS

At the sanctuary, run by FOUR PAWS, the bears will receive all the care and sunshine they need to recover from the dark years they had to endure. Xuan and Mo join over 40 other Asiatic black bears at the sanctuary, many of whom FOUR PAWS rescued from bile farming operations.

Bear Sanctuary Ninh Binh is working with the Vietnamese government to end bile bear farming in Vietnam and provide a species-appropriate home for the animals saved from the cruel trade. Xuan and Mo's rescue is part of FOUR PAWS' #SaveTheSaddestBears initiative, an effort to save the world's most in-need captive bears.