Nanning Diaries: First taste of a new life

21 May 2014

nanning diaries

Our new series — Nanning Diaries — takes you inside a bear farm that will become a sanctuary. The entire transition will take around two years and we’ll keep you up to date every step of the way.

We are indebted to the brilliant Animals Asia bear and vet teams for continuing to share their thoughts and challenges.

Heidi Quine, Senior Bear Manager (May 7, 2014)

Heidi headshot border"Ai, Mary, Qin, and I visited the five bears held in a facility just down the road from the main bear sheds and dens. While we were there we noted the bears had no water, so grabbing the hose Ai began to fill up the shallow cement troughs just on the other side of the den bars. All of the bears came straight over and began to drink, however one bear in particular – an underweight, though handsome male – sat down in the cement trough and with obvious delight began to dip his head underneath the water stream. Soon he was using his paws to push the water up over his forelegs and over his shoulders, rubbing it over his muzzle and then his legs, stopping every now and then to take great gulps from the hose. He lay in this shallow trough – barely deep enough to cover his toes – letting Ai shower him for a good 10 minutes. I watched Ai and the bear enjoying the bath and silently repeated a promise to the bear that things would be better from now on.”

"What an indescribable honour to be part of the journey for the brave, brave Nanning bears. They truly relished their first, properly-balanced feed — a feast for these deprived bears — it reduced me to tears several times. I watched one young bear, perhaps a year old, sitting up on her haunches and carefully holding a tomato in her tiny paws while peeling the skin so she could eat the juicy fruit beneath. She had a spray of tomato seeds dotting her forehead and was completely oblivious to me standing there captivated by her joy in something so simple as a tomato - something that should all along have been hers."

Tomato cub (1) (1)

Ai Chao Jun, Assistant Bear Manager (May 7, 2014)

Xin headshot borderfinal“The latest trip to Nanning had a big effect on me. We went to the only place where bears have access into a proper enclosure. It’s big enough for five bears but only one bear can go out because the bears would fight with each other. We went to see the bears that were kept inside. They didn’t get proper care. They don’t even have access to water. We grabbed a hose to add water to their bowls. One bear really loved the cool water. He loved it when I hosed his back. Enjoying the shower, he moved his body to different angles so the water could reach the different parts of his body. I think bears are quite simple animals with basic needs – so why don’t we give it to them? People need to think about this.”

Ai hoses off a very appreciative male bear

Wang Xin, Bear Team Officer and Translator (May 6, 2014)

Xin headshot border“I was horrified when I first entered the sheds. I have seen many bears stereotype before, but not many of them do it so intensely. Most of the bears here stereotype so much - there was one bear going back and forth from his small yard to his cage. He stumbled around hitting himself hard off the cage bars. It was so sad to see.”

“But I felt really happy when I saw the bears enjoying the first meal of their new diet. They were holding apples and tomatoes like treasure. I could tell straight away that they loved the food and were happier than before.”

Checking bear teeth (1)