November 04, 2015 08:14 PM

It was a Herculean effort that ended with the rescue of Hercules the bear.

The bear in the video above was the last of 33 rescued from a bile farm in Quang Ninh province, Vietnam, where the group Animals Asia began a rescue effort six months ago.

Hercules’s rescue on Oct. 30 is the culmination of more than eight years of campaigning in the province, the group said in a press release. That campaign was supported by several celebrities, including Ricky Gervais, Ali McGraw and Olivia Newton John.

Quang Ninh had previously been a hotspot for bile farming, the cruel practice of extracting a bear’s bile using various painful, invasive techniques, all of which cause infection.

“Now 33 bears have started new lives after decades in cages, and Vietnam is closer to ending bear bile farming once and for all,” Jill Robinson, the founder of Animals Asia, who is featured in the video above, said in a press release. “This has been a Herculean effort by all in the Animals Asia team to see the province of Quang Ninh bear farm-free – and we are thankful, grateful and determined to keep pushing for countrywide closure of all bile farms soon.”

Hercules, who savored honey and other treats when he was rescued, is embarking on a new, happy life at the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre in Tam Dao National Park, where 115 other moon and sun bears are being rehabilitated and cared for by expert bear and vet teams.

Sadly, Vietnam still has more 1,200 bears living their lives in cages and facing regular bile extraction, according to Animals Asia. The bears – mostly moon bears – sit in tiny cages and suffer inadequate diets, little or no veterinary care and painful extractions for their bile, which is then used in traditional medicine (despite the availability of a large number of effective and affordable herbal and synthetic alternatives, Animals Asia’s website says).

Rescuing this many bears, though, is definitely something to celebrate.

“Now that we’ve helped put an end to bear bile farming in Quang Ninh, we have a template to apply to the rest of the country,” Robinson said. “Together with the cooperation of the Vietnam Traditional Medicine Association – which wants to eliminate the usage of bear bile in traditional medicine – we now have a realistic plan for eliminating bear bile farming in Vietnam by the target year of 2020.”


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