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Goodbye Devon and Niki

I’m so sorry to bring you more terrible news from Chengdu, but two more of our bears have passed away – Devon and Niki.

Devon’s death has left us particularly devastated as no one expected something so tragic to happen to such a young, gorgeous bear who has only been with us since early last year. Only a few days before, I was showing him off to Chris and Hannah, who represented his adoring Exmouth Support Group in the UK, as he lolloped happily around the enclosure. Then yesterday he was gone. 

That his life ended so tragically and quickly is heartbreaking. Devon was handed over to Animals Asia by the Sichuan Army, which had been rearing him for three years. Devon had been delivered to the soldiers by some Tibetans who had found him as a very tiny cub, with his dead mother nearby. The army took good care of him, but realised that as a rapidly growing bear, they would soon be unable to handle him.

Here are our Senior Vet Heather’s notes: 

Affectionately known as “monkey-bear” Devon was a great climber. Sadly on 22 September, in a bizarre incident, Devon was pronounced dead in the enclosure. In an incident that was watched by the bear-keeping team, play with two of his closest friends went horribly wrong when Devon suddenly collapsed. 

The post mortem confirmed a cracked rib, which had punctured his lung, leading to a quick and untimely death. We are all devastated at the loss of this beautiful young bear. RIP Devon. 

Then on 29 September, we said farewell to beautiful Niki, who had been with us since 2003. Niki had never needed an ear tag, as his silly, sweet face and disfigured paw were always the perfect ID. Again, Heather says it all here: 

They say all things come in threes and here in Chengdu we’re hoping that its true and the sad weeks are behind us as we say goodbye to a third bear in House 5/6. Niki was a familiar face on site, with his deformed right paw, damaged by a snare when he was taken from the wild to be tortured on a bear farm, he was instantly recognisable by the long claw that grew upwards from the ground. 

Over the past few weeks, we noticed that although he was active and eating as usual, he had developed a cough. A course of antibiotics was prescribed and the coughing stopped with Niki back to his usual self. However a few days ago, we noticed that he seemed more breathless than usual and his belly was distended. Fearing the worst, an emergency health check was scheduled. 

Once on the surgery table, it became obvious that his abdomen was filled with fluid; his lungs were congested and he was struggling to breathe. Sadly, we said goodbye and Niki was gently euthanised. A post mortem confirmed that his heart had failed and was dilated to twice its usual size with fluid backing up throughout his circulation. Sleep well little bear.

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