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).
On Sunday 25 April, our Vietnam veterinary surgeon Kirsty Officer, and Vietnam Director, Tuan Bendixsen, travelled to Ha Long Bay to free two bears from their terrible existence and bring them back to our Moon Bear Rescue Centre, in Tam Dao National Park.
No longer useful, Faith and Hope are consigned to the cells.
Kirsty sent the following report on the rescue:
Monday, 26 April: We happily welcomed our latest arrivals to the rescue centre – two lovely female moon bears from Tuan Chau Island resort in Ha Long Bay.
Life on an island in Ha Long Bay might sound like an enviable existence, but it was certainly not for these two bears. They were brought to the island five years ago as young bears, pre-trained by a circus to perform in the degrading animal shows put on at the resort.
After a year or so they grew into big bears, capable of hurting their handlers, and thus were “retired” to a couple of cramped cages in a small dark room, where they have remained until now. We suspect that they would most likely have had bile extracted periodically, which would explain why they have been kept for so long without performing.
From their room they could hear the frustrated screams of the circus monkeys in their own tiny cages next door, and the deafening music that is played at the crocodile show three times a day behind them. We were told that the room got so hot in the summer that it wasn’t possible to spend more than a few minutes in there at a time. It was a very stressful environment, as evidenced by the rub marks both bears have on their heads from stereotypic head swaying.
Yesterday, both bears were anaesthetised to remove them from their cages and had a brief health-check before being loaded into our transport cages and onto the truck, ready for the trip home. The manager of the resort was very cooperative and seemed pleased that the bears were going to a better home, and kindly lent us some of his staff for the day to help out.
KIrsty and Tuan carry out a health-check on each bear.
The first bear, nicknamed Hope, is a small but well proportioned bear, with a perfect arrow-head shaped crescent. She is the quieter of the two, and has leathery ears from her constant head swaying. Her partner, nicknamed Faith, is a bigger bear and is perhaps a little older. She has a feistier attitude, and the workers at the resort warned us that she was dangerous.
Thankfully no major health problems were detected on brief examination of either bear. We were packed up, with the bears recovered and ready to hit the road by early afternoon, but were then delayed as we waited for the official transit permit to be signed by the director of the provincial Forestry Protection Department. This unfortunately was not forthcoming until the following morning, so the bears had to wait another 24 hours before finally making it back to the rescue centre on Monday afternoon.
Many thanks to our small and efficient team for a smooth rescue and to Dr The for dealing with the endless negotiations and paperwork. To Chinh for recording the rescue with photos and helping wherever needed, and especially to Tuan for organizing the rescue, and filling the roles of vet nurse and bear worker with aplomb!
Hope quietly enjoys refreshing watermelon.
Faith and Hope have settled in well at the rescue centre. They will be in quarantine for around 45 days, before moving into dens, being integrated with other bears and finally moving outdoors to the semi-natural enclosures.
Thank you to Gail Hawkins, a visitor to Ha Long Bay, for bringing these bears to our attention.
Vet Kirsty takes a closer look at the bears, imprisoned for years in a dark room.
Tuan distract the bears to allow KIrsty to anaesthetise them for removal.
With the bears sleeping peacefully, Kirsty wrenches open the first cage.
Each bear is loaded into her transport cage on the truck for the trip home.
Back at last, the bears are carefully unloaded into the quarantine area.
In quarantine, Faith is curious about the fresh browse on her cage.