In the second part of a four-part series we look back to the New Year Rescue that took place early in January 2013 and track the progress of the six bears who joined us at our China sanctuary. In the year that followed their lives changed from painful daily extractions in tiny cages to rehabilitation and the start of new lives and friendships.
For bears rescued by Animals Asia a lot can change in a year.
When Xuan Xuan - then called Sun Li after her Chinese film star sponsor - joined us we honestly feared she wouldn’t pull through.
Speaking at the time, Animals Asia founder and CEO Jill Robinson MBE (above) described her as:
“A broken bear with a myriad of problems. She has severe arthritis, dehydrated pads, a fistula leaking bile and disgusting, rotten teeth.”
Fast-forward 12 months and she is almost unrecognisable. Boasting a new name, Xuan Xuan, after a character played by Sun Li, she is healthy and confident in her new surroundings. Nobody is more relieved than the real Sun Li who previously made a dash to her bear’s bedside.
Sun Li’s link to this incredible bear also saw Xuan Xuan’s recovery followed across China - raising awareness and inspiring change along the way. Xuan Xuan has already captured more hearts and minds than she could ever imagine.
Her on-going rehabilitation meant it was June before she stepped outside for the fist time. She was understandably nervous, cautiously sniffing the clean air before sitting in the doorway observing her new surroundings. After a minute she turned back to the safety of the den.
In the following days, Xuan Xuan grew braver and she stepped out to explore her new world.
Since then, despite suffering so badly, Xuan Xuan is a very peaceful creature.
Bear Manager Heidi Quine remembers how her gentle nature meant she was an easy fit with her new friends when she was finally integrated with a community of bears in House 5:
“When Xuan Xuan arrived she was so calm with each bear, and took the wind out of the other bears’ sails with her underwhelmed response to their tough guy routines. She has the most beautiful, gentle, soul.”
For a while, Xuan Xuan’s rehabilitation left her slowly dealing with the changes she faced on a day-by-day basis. She was initially a solitary bear but just this week an update was received from Heidi:
“Xuan Xuan has recently started to play with Harley. Since the integration she has largely been content with her own company, though she has always played with toys and seemed to be very fond of the fire hose hammock. So, this is the first time Xuan Xuan has really bonded with another bear - the pair have been observed playfully wrestling in the dens and the enclosures.”
A new life, new surroundings and finally, free from pain, she has found a friend. What a year for Xuan Xuan - a beautiful, brave, famous bear.
But most importantly of all - a mended bear.
Huge thanks to photographer Peter Yuen for contributing to these wonderful photos. You can see his website here and his Facebook page here. Pictures from Animals Asia can be ordered here with profits going towards our campaign to End Bear Bile Farming.