An emotional and exhausting week in Nanning for vet team

01 August 2014


An emotional and exhausting week in Nanning for the Animals Asia’s vet team has seen our heroes experience the full range of highs and lows that come with their roles, but determined to press on.

Over the course of the week, 12 bears were assessed in a round of health checks larger in scale and scope than the previous visit.

The operating room facilities were improved with air conditioning, operating table and anaesthetic equipment installed, while the team of vets and nurses itself was enlarged to allow two health checks to be carried out simultaneously.

As the bears on site had enjoyed a healthy and nutritious diet for a couple of months, the team were able to better identify which bears were higher priority cases for health checks, with chronic weight loss often a sign of terminal diseases including cancer.

Wilberforce during health check

Tragically, such conditions were found in three of the bears – Themba, Gaius Musonius Rufus and Hazel. Themba passed away in front of vets’ eyes before his health check could be performed, while Rufus’ weakened body did not recover from his operation and later passed away.

Resident Veterinarian Emily Drayton said:

“It was evident on health check that Rufus was a very sick patient. Following the assessment he suffered systemic organ failure, his liver, pancreas and kidneys all showing signs of disease that likely developed over months. While upset that Rufus passed away we are aware that without intervention he would have continued to deteriorate and suffer. His post mortem showed that the degree of disease was incurable.”

Hazel had been health checked a week ago due to concern raised about her lack of appetite and subdued demeanour. This week she was reassessed, after she collapsed raising further worries about possible medical issues with her spinal column.

Her health check and consequently her post mortem revealed a catalogue of problems including a congested liver, small kidneys with areas of discolouration and a degree of cardiac disease. The prognosis for poor Hazel was very poor and the team were left with no option but to gently euthanise her.

As well as identifying terminal cases, the latest round of health checks also allowed staff to ascertain which bears will require a cholecystectomy – an operation to remove their gall bladders.

Gummy Bear 5

Animals Asia founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE said:

“I’m so proud of the dedication and professionalism of the whole team. They were exceptional this week. Coming face to face with these bears’ horrific health problems is heart-breaking, but for the sake of the other bears we have to keep going. These assessments are absolutely vital in providing pain relief surgery, and ultimately they allow us to make concrete plans for these bears’ futures. We need to press on.”

Nic Field, Bear and Vet Team Director said:

“It’s been a heroic week’s work, but it doesn’t stop here. Over the next few weeks, staff will be monitoring the bears’ recovery. Many of them will be much more comfortable after this week with a number of agonising conditions corrected.”

The next round of health checks is being planned for early September.

HC Room 4_MG_2446