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).
Beautiful Mama awaits rescue after four years in this cage.
Cath and Boris discuss logistics in the shed that housed the bears.
Two more lucky Moon Bears have taken up residence at our new sanctuary in Vietnam. The bears, both beautiful females, were confiscated by Binh Thuan province Forest Protection Department (FPD) in November 2003 after they were found crammed together in a small cage in the boot of a car during a random check.
The driver, a wildlife trader, was stopped just outside Phan Thiet (200km east of Ho Chi Minh) on National Highway 1, the main route for trade between the north and south Vietnam. He told the FPD officers that he was taking the bears to Ho Chi Minh City for a client.
Until Animals Asia’s rescue team, headed by Boris Chiao, came to pick them up 11 August 2007, the two bears were kept by the Binh Thuan FPD in the same cage and were fed a diet of mainly congee soup made from leftover food. Fortunately, the FPD contacted our Vietnam Director Tuan Bendixsen and asked Animals Asia to take the bears to our sanctuary as neither of them could be released back into the wild because both are missing front paws, probably from being snared in the wild.
One of the bears has been named “Moggy”; the other, "Mama". Mama is missing her right front paw and Moggy is missing her left front paw.
It was quite a gruelling road-trip for both the bears and the seven-strong rescue team – plus drivers. After 1.5-hour preliminary health checks for each bear, they were loaded (anaesthetised) into transport cages for the three-day 1,600km journey north to Tam Dao, near Hanoi.
Senior veterinary surgeon Cath Williams estimated that the bears were under 10, possibly 5-6 years old, based on their history. And while they were of normal weight (80-90kg), they clearly had nutrition problems.
“Both had terrible tartar on their teeth and will need some dental attention, although there were no obvious dental lesions. The state of their teeth probably reflects their diet too as they have had nothing to use them on, but they both had a full set! So good diet and some enrichment toys, such as bamboo treats, should also help,” Cath said, adding that one of the girls had been biting her bars – a common problem among caged bears.
She said there were no obvious signs that either bear had been milked for her bile, but it would be impossible to say for sure until a more extensive examination had been carried out.
The exhausted team drove through the night, arriving at the sanctuary at 6.30am on 14 August. But there was no time to rest. Immediately, everyone went to work transferring the new arrivals into the den that had been prepared for them.
These gorgeous bears will now be safe with us for the rest of their lives, and they will never be subjected to the horrors of bile extraction.
Lovely Moggy waits patiently as Cath prepares to give her a health check.
Cath anaethetises Mama, while Candice distracts her with a milkshake.
Boris assists Cath with Mama's health check before the long journey to Tam Dao.
Vietnam Director, Tuan Bendixsen, works closely with the Forest Protection Dept.