An investigation into a popular tourist destination in Vietnam has revealed malnourished juvenile bears kept in deplorable conditions and forced to perform bizarre tricks for the entertainment of foreign visitors.
The disturbing new footage, shared by animals rights group Animals Asia, shows how moon bears are muzzled, forced to ride bicycles, juggle and balance on objects as part of a bizarre show at Orchid Island near Nha Trang.
Off stage, the bears are paraded as selfie “props” before being returned to tiny, barren cages away from visitors’ view.
“This is the most ruthless exploitation of a protected species,” said Animals Asia Animal Welfare Department manager Nguyen Tam Thanh.
“Clearly, no thought is given to the welfare of the bears as they endure an utterly miserable existence. Vietnam has laws against this brutal exploitation, but nothing is being done to end the suffering.”
While Vietnamese law does not prohibit animal performance, protected species such as bears, macaques and elephants are protected from exploitation, including poaching and trading for profit.
Moon bears are a protected species. Picture: Animals AsiaSource:Supplied
Animals Asia says the bears are “painfully thin”. Picture: Animals AsiaSource:Supplied
However, despite a report by Animals Asia showing the widespread abuse of protected species at circuses across the country, the authorities have yet to take punitive action against any facilities, so the performances continue.
“The latest video evidence shows just how appalling the treatment of these bears really is and how blatantly Vietnam’s own laws are being ignored,” said Animals Asia Animal Welfare director Dave Neale.
“These young bears are painfully thin, and we need answers as to where they have come from. Their poaching and trade is illegal in Vietnam, and so is their exploitation for profit, yet that is exactly what is going on at Orchid Island in plain sight for everybody to see.”
Orchid Island is a facility run by Long Phu Corporation, which claims to specialise in “eco-tourism” in the popular resort town of Nha Trang.
Vietnamese law does not prohibit animal performance. Picture: Animals AsiaSource:Supplied
Animals Asia says Lonely Planet and the world’s largest travel site TripAdvisor have both stopped selling Orchid Island tours.
Following the publication of an Animals Asia investigation into animal cruelty and wildlife crime at circuses up and down the country, the charity is petitioning the Vietnam government to ban all wild animal performance.
Once the petition has received 100,000 signatures, it will be sent to the Ministry of Culture.
In 2018, a cruel monkey circus within a UNESCO-accredited reserve was ended after a long-running campaign by Animals Asia and a petition signed by more than 40,000 people.
News.com.au has contacted the Long Phu Corporation for comment.
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