Despite authorities’ efforts, the illegal trade in moon bear bile continues to flourish in places like Ha Long town in Quang Ninh.
Tourists are visiting a bear farm Photo: NLD
Pham Van Phat, deputy head of the province Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, told Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper that his agency tightly controls the breeding of bears, which is now done only for research.
“We often send inspectors to bear farms,” he said.
Besides, he claimed, since tours to bear farms to buy bile is illegal, travel firms no longer offer them.
But a Nguoi Lao Dong correspondent, who went in the guise of a tourist wanting to buy bile, discovered that it remains easy to buy bile in Ha Long through brokers.
Since travel companies went out of the business, brokers have stepped into the breach.
It is very easy to find a broker who may be a xe om rider or the owner of a sidewalk cafe to take one to a farm to buy bile.
Most bear farms in the city claim to be research centers to avoid the authorities’ scrutiny.
Nguoi Lao Dong was taken to Hoa Toan bear farm in Ha Tu Ward to witness extraction of the bile.
Caged in poor conditions for long periods of time punctuated by painful extraction, most of them were in a state of debilitation.
The owner said her farm does not allow tourist groups but only individual tourists to avoid detection.
Tour guides are also part of the chain. Often a tourist seeking to buy bile does not need to go to a farm, but can buy bile from their tour guide.
When asked about the ban on selling bears or products from bears, D, a broker, said: “Bile trading is illegal, forest rangers also keep close watch, but we never lack supply due to the high demand.
“We can provide as much as you want. We also offer discounts for large quantities.”
Bear bile is not only sold in the domestic market but also exported to countries like China and Korea.
The owner of a bear farm at Dai Yen Ward said: “Though we have to limit customers coming to the farm, we still work to full capacity and export thousands of cubic centimeters of bile every month.”
Moon bears, found from South to East Asia, are listed as a vulnerable and endangered species.
Asians, especially Chinese, Vietnamese, and Koreans, believe bear bile has medicinal benefits that can cure ailments ranging from fever to heart disease.
People also drink it with rice wine, believing this can cure eye problems and liver complaints.
Bear bile has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 3,000 years.