Saturday, 3 December — 4.50pm: After four days on the road, and driving from 5am with breaks only for the bears, the trucks roll through the gates of our Moon Bear Rescue Centre in Tam Dao, safely delivering the 14 new members of our bear family home.
Vet Kirsty, vet nurse Rae, bear managers Annemarie and Falk and their teams are ready and prepared and everyone is eager to meet the bears, get them off the trucks and settled into the quarantine area.
Without delay the unloading begins — ties securing the transport cages on the trucks are quickly snapped and one by one, these enduring bears are lowered to the ground and moved into their temporary new homes.
With all this new activity, Rajani's anxiety level is high and she shows her fear in a heart-rending display of roars and frenzied activity.
Bear manager Falk oversees the transfer of each bear from the small transport cages to the large, roomy recovery cages, and because of her great bulk, Nelly is first to move. Once her transport cage is secured to the recovery cage, the adjoining cage doors are opened. Falk first treats Nelly to a treat of honey in the smaller cage, before moving around to the outside of the big cage and encouraging her to step inside for more. Nelly complies and as she licks the honey offered by Falk, the door is quietly secured behind her.
Most of the bears oblige and move into the recovery cages with only a little hesitation — Nogc Thai (V092) is a more wary and growls and huffs a bit before she is settled, Rajani is vocal but doesn't take too long to move to the bigger space. Dream Mischa Tebs moves as Kirsty and vet nurse Caroline speculated, using the bottom of her crippled right forepaw for support, but manages well.
All runs smoothly until the second-last bear, Duffy. This little bear with the bald back refuses to cross the threshold and will not leave the transport cage, no matter how many times Falk tries. He tempts her with honey and calls gently to her from outside her recovery cage but Duffy will not be moved. She is eager to take the honey in her transport cage but unwilling to take the next step out of it.
The last bear, Lana, is moved in and with Duffy still refusing to move, it is decided to let her stay where she is for the night.
Fresh food and water is served up and browse is laid on top of each cage. Horatio surprises everyone with his display of absolute delight — grasping the large green leaves and jumping, twisting and squirming around his cage with them in sheer joy!
Ngoc Son has also settled in quickly and lying on her back, plays happily with an apple, bouncing it around between her paws.
The lights are switched off and the bears left to settle down for the night. Soon they will be assessed and prioritised for health checks and their individual rehabilitation programmes will begin. But for now, here they are — nestled safely in the sanctuary among the hills of Tam Dao — free at last.