years ago this April, Jill Robinson first walked onto a bear bile farm. On that day in April 1993, Jill could have walked away, but she chose to act and do what she could. Today, you also have a choice. If everyone reading this donated just US$20, it would pay for the care of over 150 bears at our China sanctuary for a full year. Please help us celebrate 20 years of progress. Donate US$20 today (or whatever you can afford).
Munchkin hanging out by herself before integration with David.
Our big sun bear David arrived at the rescue centre in Vietnam in September 2008, one of the first sun bears to join our family. Soon afterwards, Munchkin, a small, angry little sun bear arrived. Long alone and trapped in a double cage, Munchkin was suspicious and defensive, lashing out at all who came near. David on the other hand, has never been anything but relaxed and gentle since his arrival, and in size and temperament these two bears couldn’t be more different.
Recently housed next door to each other, the preliminary interaction between these bears has been a pleasant surprise, with David keen to connect from the first moment he saw Munchkin. He often waited at the top of his hanging basket for her to join him on the other side, where he would gently paw, sniff, lick and play through the separating bars. David has never had any aggressive vocals or behaviours towards Munchkin during the eight weeks they have lived side by side, and was often seen taking enrichment toys full of fruit and placing them against the bars for Munchkin to help herself to.
Munchkin wasn’t quite so keen at the beginning, and was nervous when David moved into the den next to her. Previously having a neighbour who avoided contact, it came as quite a surprise to suddenly have this great, lumbering male come straight to the bars keen to get to know her, and Munchkin avoided him for the first day. Her first contact with him was swiping and growling, and she kept a very close eye on him wherever he moved, but David was oblivious to her defensiveness, and continued to pursue his new friend. By day two, Munchkin was much more relaxed and did not show any aggression but continued to watch David closely. Finally she began to play and was very soon happy to flirt, nibble, paw, and even steal his food through the bars.
After the development of such a successful new friendship, the bear managers and vet team in Vietnam decided the time had come this week to do a full integration and no longer keep these two bears separated. David’s calm, almost dopey, demeanour was predicted to be a good match for Munchkin, who is feistier and a little nervous about new people and situations.
And the outcome of the integration? Senior Bear Manager, Bec reports, “Both bears were walking on their hind legs before meeting, then instantly wrapped their arms around each other, with not a moment of aggression. There was no hesitation from either bear to engage in play, bear hugging one another and play biting. David had never been in this den before, so he wandered in to check it out, interested in sniffing and exploring, only to be wrestled by Munchkin every step of the way. He is very gentle with her, which is comforting to watch, as he is much larger, although a lot of him is excess skin, with Munchkin is using to play-bite and pull! The first hour was non-stop wrestling, with no aggressive behaviours or vocalisations displayed.”
Throughout the day, their obvious joy continued, with even a lot of enrichment items ignored in the pursuit of cementing their friendship. David and Munchkin did however, share a large fruit ice-block, pawing, biting and licking at it without any aggression shown towards each other. With all this play tiring them out, they retired together to one basket later in the afternoon to rest up before carrying on the game.
Sharing enrichment again later in the day and eating close to each other, David ventured over to Munchkin once he had finished his own food, where he casually joined her to eat. Munchkin allowed him to eat her food, but very slightly raised the corner of her mouth, which David saw and took to mean "back off", which he did. “It was a very cute, and very tiny, display of aggression over the evening food” said Bec. “David’s reaction definitely suggests that Munchy wears the pants in this relationship!”
With release into the great outdoor enclosures planned for the future, David and Munchkin look set for a lifetime of friendship together.