The last bear reportedly in captivity in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai was freed on Tuesday.
The 15-year-old female Asian black bear, classified as “vulnerable” internationally, had been in the possession of a company whose office is on the border between Gia Lai and Cambodia, and was rescued with the help of forest protection officials.
It will be transferred to the Vietnam Bear Rescue Center in the northern province of Vinh Phuc where 186 other bears live, the Animals Asia Foundation who joined the rescue said.
The 1,100-kilometer trip will take three days, and then she will spend 45 days in quarantine.
The foundation quoted forest rangers in Gia Lai as saying the 120-kilogram animal was captured as a cub to be kept as a pet.
Hunting, possessing or trading wildlife classified as vulnerable carries a fine of up to VND3 billion ($129,640) and imprisonment of up to 12 years in Vietnam.
The bear, named Hoa Gao (cotton blossom) by the foundation, was to have been rescued in early March but the operation was postponed due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
The rescue was the first by the foundation to be carried out by an all-Vietnamese team.
Forest Protection Department statistics show she was the last bear in captivity in the province, with the rest freed over the years.
Bears are mostly kept in captivity in Vietnam for bile extraction and occasionally as pets, the foundation said.
Its spokesperson said eight bears have been rescued in Gia Lai since 2011, one of them a sun bear and the rest, Asian black bears or moon bears. The former was transferred to a wildlife rescue center in Hanoi, while the others were sent to Vinh Phuc.
The foundation has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Vietnam Administration of Forestry and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for freeing all bears in the country between 2017 and 2022.
There are another 500 in captivity in 36 provinces and cities, while only a few hundred are left in the wild.
Vietnam banned bear bile extraction in 2005, but farmers who owned bears prior to the ban have been allowed to keep them.
Reported by Sen, @Vnexpress