Vietnam has abandoned plans to close a bear sanctuary at the heart of a land dispute in one of its national parks.

Moon bears at the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre are no longer at risk for losing their home.

The Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre in Tam Dao National Park which has been facing the possibility of eviction since last October, due to an attempted land grab by a politically connected developer, has gotten a reprieve. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung recently announced that the sanctuary, home to 104 bears saved from the illegal bear bile industry, will remain open.

Animals Asia,

the charity that runs the Rescue Centre, mounted a high-profile campaign to save the sanctuary, recruiting Ricky Gervais and other celebrities to its cause.

Additionally, the second stage of the Centre’s construction can now proceed. The Centre, in which Animals Asia has invested more than $2 million, will give the sanctuary a better opportunity to rehabilitate bears and gather evidence of the damage caused by bile extraction. The reprieve also means that 77 Vietnamese sanctuary staff will keep their jobs.

Bile farm.

Bears are locked in cages like these for years.

The continued operation of the rescue center is an essential part of a larger goal set by Animals Asia to increase public awareness about the bear bile industry and ultimately eliminate bear bile farming altogether.

The industry currently uses more than 2,400 moon bears, sun bears and brown bears in Vietnam, while an additional 10,000 live on similar farms in China.

Chinese bear farm.

Founder and CEO of Animals Asia, Jill Robinson MBE, explained that outside activism has played a significant role in Animals Asia’s mission to get these bears to safety: “Our priority has been to rehabilitate these bears after their years of trauma from being locked up in small cages and milked for their bile. If we had been forced to relocate it would have had a terrible impact on their wellbeing. We want to sincerely thank the tens of thousands of supporter from around the world who wrote letters, sent e-mails and signed petitions calling for the eviction to be stopped.”

Animal rights campaigners have long attacked the bile farming industry as barbaric, and it is banned in Vietnam. Digestive bile is forcibly extracted from the gall bladders of bears, to be sold on the black market for use in traditional medicine.