Vietnam spares Hong Kong-funded bear rescue centre from eviction
Agence France-Presse in Hanoi
A sanctuary for bears rescued from the Asian bile trade, which has been at the centre of a high-profile land dispute, has been spared eviction by Vietnam's government.
The US$2 million facility run by Animals Asia Foundation, the Hong Kong-based animal welfare group, was told last July that it could face eviction from the Tam Dao National Park.
The foundation waged a public relations and social media campaign to save the Moon Bear Rescue Centre from what staff allege was a corruption-driven land grab.
The decision to spare the facility, which was featured in a Post Magazine cover story last year, was made at a meeting on Monday led by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.
Bile from the Asian black bear is believed to possess healing qualities in traditional Chinese medicine, but animal rights groups decry the practice of confining the creatures in small cages to draw the liquid from their stomachs.
The centre feared for its future after receiving a letter in July from a deputy defence minister forbidding any further expansion and ordering it to find a new location on the grounds its land area was of national strategic interest.
The foundation alleged that Tam Dao National Park director Do Dinh Tien had a personal stake in an ecotourism venture proposed for the park, and said that was the real reason behind the threatened eviction.
The government warned that "he would be seriously punished if violations are found".