Hong Kong-based Animals Asia Foundation (AAF) has rescued 19 bears from a bile farm in southern Binh Duong Province near Ho Chi Minh City, local authorities said Tuesday.
Authorities said a total 25 bears were rescued from the bile farm, six of which were accepted by Dai Nam Joint Stock Company.
Of the 19 bears accepted by AAF, one is blind and two are handicapped, they said.
According to AAF, the bears were being driven to the group's Moon Bear Rescue Center in Tam Dao National Park near Hanoi.
The group said the central and provincial Forest Protection Departments asked for its help a few weeks ago after authorities decided to close down the bear farm for not meeting regulations, AFP reported.
A Taiwanese businessman who owned the bears moved them to cargo containers two months ago after authorities warned him about the concrete "cells'' in which he had kept them for several years, AFP quoted Animals Asia as saying.
Some Asians – especially Chinese, Vietnamese and Koreans – believe bear bile has medicinal benefits that can treat ailments ranging from fevers to heart disease.
People also drink bear bile with a shot of rice wine, believing this cocktail can cure eye problems and liver complaints.
Records show bear bile has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 3,000 years.
Gau ngua, the moon bear or Asiatic black bear, can be kept on farms legally in Vietnam. However the extraction and sale of their meat and bile is illegal.