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Cablegate: Tam Dao Bear Rescue Center: Modern, Well-Run And

VZCZCXRO3259
RR RUEHAST RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHNH RUEHPB RUEHPOD
RUEHTM
DE RUEHHI #1402/01 3580927
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 230927Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8926
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 5424
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE
RUEHC/DEPT OF INTERIOR WASHINGTON DC
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ EPA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 001402

STATE FOR OES/ENRC (SCASWELL AND HSUMMERS)
JUSTICE FOR ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES (JWEBB)

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV SOCI EAGR VM
SUBJECT: TAM DAO BEAR RESCUE CENTER: MODERN, WELL-RUN AND
UNDER-UTILIZED

REF: A) HANOI 1184; B) HANOI 398; C) 07 HANOI 1763 D)HCMC 156

HANOI 00001402 001.2 OF 002


1. (U) Summary: Animals Asia Foundation, a Hong Kong based NGO,
recently completed construction of the first stage of a bear rescue
center in the Tam Dao National Park. The state of the art facility
can provide long-term housing for nearly 50 bears and has sufficient
facilities to provide care for an additional 70 animals for up to
six months. However, despite ambitious expansion plans, the
facility remains under utilized. Though Government of Vietnam (GVN)
officials strongly supported the construction of the facility, they
have been less willing to enforce Vietnamese animal protection laws
to remove bears from bear farms to the rescue center. End Summary.

First Class Bear Care
---------------------

2. (U) On December 22, Embassy Officers visited the Animals Asia
Foundation Tam Dao Bear Rescue Center approximately 90 kilometers
northwest of Hanoi. The first stage of the facility opened earlier
this year with top-of-the-line housing, medical care, and nutrition
for nearly 50 bears. Currently, the facility's veterinary staff,
bear managers and local employees look after 22 animals, most of
which have been rescued from bear farms or confiscated during
transit into Vietnam from Laos and Cambodia or out of Vietnam into
China. (Note: Animals Asia has rescued several bears after
receiving notification through a hotline run by U.S.-supported
indigenous wildlife NGO Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV)). Built
at a cost of nearly USD 500,000, largely raised from individual
donors around the world, the center hopes eventually to return some
of the bears in its care to the wild. Unfortunately, many of its
residents no longer know how to fend for themselves or are in poor
health. Additionally, according to Tuan Bendixsen, the Vietnam
Director of Animals Asia, there are few possible places to relocate
the bears as the estimated wild bear population in Vietnam is in the
hundreds and the national park system does not have the capacity to
manage reintroduction.

Ambitious Expansion Plans
-------------------------

3. (U) Following approval from the office of Vietnamese Prime
Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Animals Asia has begun construction on the
second phase of the project, which will cost USD 3.3 million. By
March 2009, it hopes to open a spacious new bear enclosure with
capacity to accommodate 40-50 bears, which will soon be followed by
a visitor center as Animals Asia plans to bring in schools, local
officials and other visitors to educate them about the need to
protect wildlife. An environmentally friendly facility, the center
has set up a biogas system to eventually use bear waste to power
outdoor lighting and purchases many of the fruits and vegetables
consumed by the bears from local organic farms. Upon completion,
the facility will provide a semi-natural environment to care for up
to 250 animals at an estimated monthly operating cost of USD 50,000
to 70,000. Animals Asia will run the facility for 20 years after
which time it will turn the center over to the Vietnamese Forest
Protection Department (FPD).

Fading GVN Commitment?
----------------------
4. (SBU) Bendixsen stated that early cooperation with the GVN has
subsided. He reported excellent cooperation with the Tam Dao park
director since planning for the center commenced in 2005 and noted
that the GVN provided 21 hectares for the center. Initially, the
FPD worked closely with Animals Asia and other NGOs to draft animal
protection laws and regulations. However, FPD has shown much less
enthusiasm for enforcing those laws, particularly when bear farm
managers have strong political connections (Ref D). For example,
earlier this year, Animals Asia learned of 80 unregistered bears
illegally kept at a bear farm in northern Quang Ninh province,
largely to provide bear bile for tourists visiting from China and
South Korea. However, when contacted by Animals Asia, the FPD
refused to support relocation to the center arguing that the center
did not have adequate facilities (which it does, insisted Bendixsen,
noting that the Animals Asia constructed temporary facilities for 60
bears just for this purpose) and that removal of these 80 bears
would necessitate the removal of thousands of others around the
country, without the necessary national rescue infrastructure.
Eventually, the decision on how to proceed landed on the Prime
Minister's desk and he sided with FPD, though one token Quang Ninh
bear has been sent to Tam Dao. While FPD promised to provide 50 more
bears to the center by October 2008, this has now been delayed to

HANOI 00001402 002.2 OF 002


next March. Bendixsen expressed his concern that the planned
expansion of the center would not succeed if FPD does not keep this
promise.

Comment
-------

5. (SBU) The Tam Dao Bear Rescue Center is a remarkable facility
that provides care equal to that at animal protection sites anywhere
in the world. However, facilities, like laws and regulations, are
only the start. Tam Dao's unused capacity, particularly when
illegal bear farms operate with seeming impunity, highlights the
GVN's ambivalent approach to wildlife protection. Vietnamese
officials are willing to take the easy steps, but hesitate before
tackling implementation (Refs A, B, and C). The United States and
other countries with an interest in wildlife protection need to urge
Vietnam to live up to its commitments in practice, not simply on
paper.

MICHALAK

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