Bear rescue centre saved as premier bows to international pressure

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THE planned eviction of a ­rescue centre, which is home to 104 bears, has been halted amid claims a Vietnamese official forced the move so his family could cash in.

Vietnamese premier Nguyen Tan Dung said the £1.2 million centre, which was founded in 2005 by Hong Kong-based Animals Asia Foundation, within a national park 40 miles north of Hanoi, could stay.

Park director Do Dinh Tien’s daughter is said to have a stake in an ecotourism project proposed for the park. In July, the military ordered the bear rescue centre to relocate, citing national security concerns. In November, ten conservation groups and several foreign embassies wrote to the prime minister urging him not to close the centre.

Comedians Stephen Fry and Ricky Gervais regularly tweeted to their millions of followers about the planned eviction. American actress Ali MacGraw – star of Love Story – visited the centre late last year.

Animals Asia said there were about 2,400 bears being held in captivity across Vietnam, where their bile is extracted for use in traditional medicines. The charity estimates there are more than 10,000 held captive in neighbouring China.

The Vietnamese prime minister said the official would be “severely dealt with” if proof of his wrongdoing were established.