Two Asiatic bears were confined to complete darkness for seventeen years, so their captors could harvest their bile. The two bears, a male named Xuan and a female named Mo, were thought to be kept in complete darkness during their years of captivity and were only exposed to artificial light when they were subjected to the horrific bile extractions. Thankfully, the two bears have now been rescued from the illegal bile farm in Vietnam after their captivity came to the awareness of animal rights activists.

The illegal “bile farm” was located in the basement of a clothing shop in Son La province. The pair of Asiatic bears were both kept in complete darkness. Xuan was thought to have been held in his cage for about seventeen years. The cage was small and located in the basement of a clothing store. He was thought to have been in captivity since he was a cub beginning in 2004. It is not clear how long the captors were holding Mo in the cage, so she could have her bile extracted for the illegal “bile farm.”

Fortunately, rescue workers with the animal charity Four Paws saved the bears from captivity. The animal rights workers from Four Paws claimed that the conditions in which Xuan and Mo were held were some of the worst they had ever encountered across their careers.

Rescuers noted that the cages were dirty and rusted. The bears did not have access to fresh air, and ventilation was poor in the dank basement. The bears received no stimulation and were fed rotten vegetables to keep them alive.

After the bears were removed from the horrible conditions in the basement of the clothing shop, the animals were given medical examinations. Both bears were found to be suffering from gallbladder disease, which is likely because the bears were repeatedly stabbed in the organ by an instrument designed to extract the bears’ bile.

Xuan has other health problems. Besides being overweight due to lack of activity, he also has liver disease, and many of his teeth have fallen out of his head.

Szilvia Kalogeropoulu, the veterinarian who observed the bears, confirmed that both animals have a long way to go until they are fully recovered. Following their rescue and medical examination, the bears were loaded onto a truck to be taken to an animal sanctuary in Ninh Binh, which was a nine-hour drive away from where they were being held prisoner.

The animal sanctuary has been welcoming bears rescued from the illegal bile trade, which was outlawed in Vietnam back in 1992. The facility has about forty Asiatic black bears, which were either subjected to the horrible bile trade or illegal animal trafficking.

Bear bile is a popular ingredient that is used in traditional Asian medicine. The bile is extracted directly from the bear’s gallbladder and was usually collected by hunters after the animals were killed. However, a new process was created in the 1980s where farmers would keep the bears in captivity and extract bile from the gallbladder while keeping the bears alive. These bile farmers use catheters and created a permanent hole known as a “fistula,” which they use to access the bears’ organs.

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