The four performing bears have retired to Animals Asia's Tam Dao sanctuary in Vietnam, where they are enjoying fresh foods, lush habitats, and enrichment toys

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Vietnam Circus bear surrendered
Credit: Animals Asia

Vietnam's Hanoi Central Circus took a big step towards ending the use of animals in circus performances.

According to a release from animal welfare organization Animals Asia, the circus chose to stop including wild bear performances in their shows and voluntarily handed over their four moon bears to Animals Asia so the nonprofit could move the now-retired performers to a sanctuary.

Hanoi Central Circus is one of 15 circuses in Vietnam to end animal performances over the past several years. Animals Asia sees these changes as a "crucial" move towards better global animal welfare and is campaigning for more circuses to follow suit.

The four moon bears handed over by the Hanoi Central Circus arrived at Animals Asia's sanctuary in Tam Dao, Vietnam on June 15.

"For the first time in years, these four beautiful bears will have access to wide, open spaces and feel lush, fresh grass beneath their paws. They will be able to express natural behaviors like climbing, foraging for food, digging in the dirt, and playing with their new friends." Heidi Quine, the bear and vet team director at Animals Asia's Tam Dao sanctuary, said in a statement.

Vietnam Circus bear surrendered
Credit: Animals Asia

The new bear arrivals will also be reuniting with old friends. In 2019, Animals Asia successfully campaigned to release two female bears from the Hanoi Central Circus. The animals, which the nonprofit named Sugar and Spice "because of their lively character and the joy they brought to the sanctuary," moved into the Tam Dao sanctuary that year.

Now, all six of the former Hanoi Central Circus performers are enjoying retirement together. At the sanctuary, the bears are treated to lush habitats, fresh food tailored to their diets, soothing pools, a variety of enrichment items, and life-long health care.

Vietnam Circus bear surrendered
Credit: Animals Asia

Animals Asia's Tam Dao sanctuary is currently home to 186 bears, but the organization hopes to add more. The charity has been campaigning for the end of animal performances in Vietnam's circuses since 2014. Their work prompted "the Vietnam Ministry of Culture, the government body responsible for entertainment, to instruct circuses to stop using wild animals in their shows" in 2017, according to Animals Asia's release.

Vietnam Circus bear surrendered
Credit: Animals Asia

"Attitudes in Vietnam are changing," Tuan Bendixsen, Animals Asia's Vietnam director, shared. "Schools are starting to refuse to attend circuses that use wild animals, and over 32,000 Vietnamese people have signed our petition to end the use of wild animals in entertainment. This is a direct result of our tenacious yet collaborative approach to working with authorities and communities."