Shamrock is the latest bear to follow moon bears Manuka and Peter out the den doors for their first glimpse of sunshine in many years.
The three bears, of the six that were rescued from an illegal bear bile farm, had previously suffered agonising daily bile extractions in tiny cages for up to a decade.
The six arrived at the sanctuary on January 9, 2013 - undergoing medicals and subsequent operations to remove gall bladders damaged by repeated bile extractions. Following 45 days quarantine plus additional time for rest and recuperation they were moved to dens. There, once they’d settled in, staff opened the doors and the bears were given the opportunity to venture out for the very first time. Some instinctively stepped out onto the grass whilst other needed to be enticed.
Manuka, previously called Buddha bear, was given the first opportunity to step outside and led the way nervously blinking in the sunlight. She was followed by Peter bear who having suffered, arguably the worst torment as a large bear in the tiniest of cages, found the transition a huge mental step - stepping outside only briefly before retiring back to his den.
This week, the bear and vet team have been delighted that Peter has continued to progress - finding the strength to venture a little further afield.
Bear and Vet Team Director Nic Field explained:
“After his tentative first steps Peter’s courage has grown with each passing day and he is now enjoying the whole area and what it has to offer. He’s moving log and rock piles and learning to forage for the goodies hidden by staff as he follows their scent around the enclosure.
“He enjoys stretching to retrieve food hidden by the team in log walls or on the firehose hammock. His steady character has served him well through the whole process of rehabilitation. His long body is also beginning to fill out and we are now getting a glimpse of a magnificent adult male bear he was born to be. He had his monthly weigh-in this week and is now a healthier 124 kg opposed to the 107 kg he was in January shortly after arriving. This gentle giant of a bear really is learning and experiencing that life can be good.”
Meanwhile it’s been Shamrock’s love of food that saw her step outside with little hesitation following her nose - and stomach - as she worked her way through the enclosure looking for food.
“Since moving into the dens Shamrock has been extremely driven by food and her appetite has always been very apparent although she has become calmer in recent weeks. As with Peter and Buddha, on the morning of her being given access to the enclosure, a trail of food was left leading out from the den door. Shamrock very boldly stepped out into the enclosure and without any hesitation systematically moved around the enclosure following her food trail and the scent of hidden goodies.
“Even when growling could be heard close by in neighbouring enclosures, this beautiful, steady young female was not going to be driven from her food and she calmly sat eating her carrot between her fore paws. Watching Shamrock stepping forward into a new and happy world, it was as if she had been enjoying this world for years in contrast to the fact that only five months ago she was incarcerated in a small cage where all she knew was fear and pain.”
Animals Asia founder Jill Robinson said:
“The lesson for us all, as ever, is celebrating the emerging characters and personalities of these bears. They are all individuals - not bile producing machines whose daily torture is justified by those who exploit them on the farms. For years they have been locked away suffering incomprehensible mental anguish and physical pain.
“Today we celebrate them as sentient - as animals with emotions, thoughts and needs and implore the farmers to recognise that too. All six bears are recovering at their own pace and being cared for depending on their needs. These beautiful individuals are learning to enjoy their lives again and we’re learning the characters of them all as we marvel at their strength and bravery.”