She’d lost her fur, her eyes were in constant pain, her joints ached but when her rescuers arrived Kay took the lead - now this moon bear is almost mended.
Kay was caged for her bile but her captors took so much more. In the end she’d almost entirely lost her health, but her bravery and spirit remained.
When her rescuers arrived, this small, charismatic bear could be seen calming the bears at either side of her cage. A little later she would step bravely into a transport cage ready to be taken to Animals Asia’s sanctuary.
There were six bears rescued that day from a bile farm in Quang Ninh, Vietnam.
If Kay’s lack of fur was a shock then it was nothing compared to what vets would find.
Her skin was thickened and rough, while arthritis meant pain and stiff joints. Her teeth were damaged from biting at the bars that caged her. Worst of all were her eyelashes - permanently curled under - they were a constant irritation to her eyes.
An operation would cure the problem and her vet notes read as follows:
“Kay is just a wonderfully calm bear who keeps trusting people and taking honey and warming our hearts. She did beautifully today as she was induced for anesthesia again. The procedure was relatively quick and more redundant skin was removed to roll out those pesky eyelashes.”
By this stage, Kay’s fur was responding to treatment and growing back. Though it might never be thick, it was a marked improvement. During the winter months she was even able to listen to her natural instincts for perhaps the first time. Mindful of her desire to snooze, her diminished fur, and the cold - her rescuers gave her extra nesting materials.
And when spring arrived she was ready for her next step.
Kay (pictured above left) had started to show signs of friendship with Autumn in the neighbouring den. Rescued a month later, Autumn had faced her own battles but she too was ready to continue her rehabilitation. When the door between the two was opened they were free to meet.
Though Kay was by far the smaller bear, she was the bravest - slowly coaxing her new friend into playing. The signs are good that these two can eventually become part of a larger group of rescued bears in an open-air enclosure.
That night her carer’s notes recalled:
“So lovely to see Kay making a friend. She will be a perfect bear to meet new bears for the first time with her small stature and gentle nature. If all continues to go well, these two girls might move to House 2 when the integrations there continue.”
Vietnam Bear and Vet Team Director Annemarie Weegenaar said:
“Kay is an older bear and most certainly a wise head. She’s been so patient and trusting as vets have one by one addressed all the issues that have caused her so much pain. From here we will manage her ailments and ensure she has great quality of life.
“Part of that is making friends and enjoying the outdoors. Meeting Autumn was the first step. She took it all in her stride and was brave and calm as ever. These two friends will be a comfort to each other as they ready themselves for that big step out into the sunlight.”
Animals Asia has rescued almost 600 bears from bile farms in China and Vietnam and continues to care for nearly 400 bears at its sanctuaries. There are still 10,000 bears caged by the bile industry in China and around 1,200 more in Vietnam.
Bile is used for traditional medicine.