Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre saved from eviction after campaign
- 16 January 2013
- From the section Asia
Vietnam has abandoned plans to close a bear sanctuary at the heart of a land dispute in one of its national parks.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said the centre could stay to pursue plans to expand, and warned that any violations would be severely punished.
The sanctuary was told last year to move for "national security reasons".
But campaigners said plans to develop parkland lay behind moves to shut the centre, home to about 100 bears rescued mainly from the bile trade.
Animals Asia, the charity which runs the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre in Tam Dao National Park, mounted a high-profile campaign to save the sanctuary, recruiting Ricky Gervais and other celebrities to its cause.
Tuan Bendixsen, the charity's Vietnam director, welcomed the government announcement.
"We thank the PM very much for his decision. We are really glad to be able to carry on our activities and responsibilities," he told BBC Vietnamese.
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.