People often believe in the mystical powers of the products from certain animals but some of these “enhanced foods” can cause significant harm to the animals they are taken from. Well known examples are ground rhino horn and any part of a tiger. Though considered “medicines”, such remedies are extremely detrimental to their donors.
Due to an accelerated economy and expanding trade routes, these items are smuggled in and out of Vietnam and other parts of Asia. The results is a decrease in animal populations,leading some species to the brink of extinction.
One such popular “medicine” well known in Vietnam and north Asia is the bile secretions extracted from living “Moon” bears. These “donor” bears are trapped as pups in the forest and kept in specially designed cages for up to 25 years with catheters or open wounds to extract their bile. It is not an exageration to say such practices are both horrifying and inhuman in the extreme
The trade and farming of bears in Vietnam has been declared illegal and any discovered “cottage” industry or farms are closed down and their operators heavily fined or sent to jail. The found bears are “liberated”, which solves one problem but creates another. Most have of the rescued bears have spent a significant part of their life in cramped cages, many with open wounds and almost all with significant digestive problems. It is highly unlikely they can ever again survive in the open forest.
The Four Paws Bear Sanctuary in Nho Quan, just a few kilometers from Cuc Phuong National Park, does tremendous work in caring for these injured animals. As such, the Sanctuary operates as both a haven for these distressed animals and assists considerably with the research and knowledge of these large increasingly rare Asian mammals. The Sanctuary is Not For Profit and operates with a skeleton staff, the help of volunteers, donations from visitors and the support of the Four Paws Foundation.
The Sanctuary was closed to the public for a period of time due to COVID-19 restrictions, but it reopened in December 2021 for domestic travelers. During the closure, Four Paws took advantage of the downtime to make substantial upgrades to the Sanctuary’s facilities.
One such improvement is the new “skywalk” feature, which provides a safer and more interactive experience with these naturally secretive and elusive animals. Additionally, the Sanctuary boasts a contemporary café area, a small bookstore, and souvenir shop, along with regular tours guided by the handlers and volunteers themselves.
WIth luck, the Four Paws Bear Sanctuary has reopened to international tourism by the time you read this. If you plan travel in the Nho Quan – Cuc Phuong area, make sure to arrange a tour of the Sanctuary while you are there. A visit to the Sanctuary is interesting and rewarding, and you will be supporting a worthy cause.
The standard tour of approximately 45 minutes at the Sanctuary is 150,000 VND per adult and 100,000 VND per child (6-12 years old). In addition, visitors can opt for the skywalk at an additional cost of 50,000 VND per adult and 30,000 VND per child (5-10 years old). The funds raised help support the effort but the entrance to the Sanctuary itself is free.
The Sanctuary is situated on the Cuc Phuong – Bai Dinh road, Ky Phu, Nho Quan, approximately 5-7km away from the Cuc Phuong Entrance Gates. Given the relative isolation of the Sanctuary, which is home to over 40 wild bears, public transport is not yet a viable option. It is best to plan a visit through self-drive or a tour.