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Goodbye Irwin and Yin Yang

Terrible news I’m afraid. Two more of the 28 bears that came to us at the end of March have lost their battle to survive. First Irwin, then Yin Yang, both in the past two weeks. It’s heartbreaking to think these beautiful, brave bears came so close to living the life they were born to live and yet were too weak to ever know the joy of running on the grass.

My heart especially goes out to our Senior Vet, Heather, and the rest of the vet team who tried so hard to save them and also to the bear workers who have nourished them, played with them and showed them such kindness over the past few months.

Irwin will always have a special place in our hearts. He was nicknamed “Hagrid” from the beginning in celebration of the fact that among the dying, skeletal animals we received on the 31st March, here was a large and hairy bear at last! His huge body was crammed into an impossibly small cage.

Irwin had a nasal discharge, which we hoped was a sinus infection that could be treated with antibiotics. Sadly this was not the case. Irwin had a malignant, invasive tumour sitting high inside his nose and spreading, through the bone, towards his brain.


This type of tumour is inoperable and painful, so Irwin was euthanised before his condition could worsen. Irwin’s tumour was confirmed by biopsy after he underwent a CT scan, kindly provided by a local hospital.

Poor Yin Yang too was euthanised after the vet team discovered that her gall bladder had broken away from the fistula created by the farmer, and had stuck to her liver, creating chronic infection, which her body had attempted to contain in abscesses. In Heather’s words:


Unfortunately, the removal of Yin Yang's gall bladder revealed the dirty cotton sutures used in her original crude farm surgery and now stuck to her liver, and exposed the abscesses contained in the mass of inflammatory tissue around her gall bladder. Every effort was made to remove the infected and inflamed tissue and antibiotics were applied, but unfortunately the infection grew stronger spreading from her liver throughout her abdomen and despite extensive nursing and additional surgery, she continued to deteriorate.

Sadly we decided to put Yin Yang to sleep and end her brave struggle, another victim of the dirty and appalling bile farm conditions. Sleep well little bear.

Fifteen of the 28 bears rescued on the last day of March are no longer with us, but we will never forget them – or stop fighting for their cause. Toby (general manager of the rescue centre) and I are now trying to arrange a meeting with Madam Xiong Beirong, the head of the Wildlife Conservation Division of the Sichuan Forestry Department, who visited the sanctuary shortly after the latest rescue. Madam Xiong was visibly moved by the appalling state of the bears, so we will continue to urge her to push for an end to this industry.

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