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'Jingle' just in time for Christmas!

Two new bears have joined our Animals Asia family – a young female in China and a middle-aged male in Vietnam. I’ll write more in my next blog about the tragic story of “Misa Hai” in Vietnam, who was kept in a terrible, dark cage for 14 years.

First, let me introduce our lovely new cub, (nicknamed “Jingle”) and tell you about her dramatic rescue from a tree-top! Here’s a summary of the rescue report that I sent to staff:

“Rainbow received a call on Sunday (just after I arrived back into Chengdu) saying that a cub was high up in a tree in Xinfan (a small village near our rescue centre). Within 30 minutes, our Project Director Boris had gathered his team, Vet Jen hers, and we were speeding on our way to the area.

'High in a tree' was the understatement of the year – the cub was 12 metres up and not for coming down – particularly as the whole population of Xinfan and every other village in the area had gathered below to take in this unexpected sight. Hundreds of spectators, government officials, media cameras and even a puppy tearing around in excitement saw this as the highlight of the year. Meanwhile our Animals Asia team gathered thoughts and worked through a plan.

Lower branches were cropped away before Rocky climbed up a ladder and tied a rope around the tree. Although we’d been told this was a cub, she looked huge, high up in the branches, as the late afternoon light turned into dusk.

Jen and Wendy began loading the blow dart with drugs, while the ladder was moved and tied against an adjacent tree. Then, as Jen slowly ascended, Howard, Rocky, Ai, Xie Ming Yang, and more strong men began to pull on the rope to lower the tree holding the bear, in order to bring her more safely to the ground, and into Jen's range.

The darts were expertly fired but, not surprisingly, just missed their mark as the distance, branches and fading light played against Jen’s aim. After about 30 minutes and, as it was getting dark, the decision was made to pull the tree even lower to the ground, knowing that this risked it breaking, and the cub falling down.

Boris organised a net and duvet, which were placed just below and the boys pulled gently, but hard, on the rope. A terrific crack, the tree broke in two and the cub tumbled into the net. At that point a surge of media ran forward (despite poor translator Wen Yan trying heroically to keep the crowd at bay) and, in the mayhem, the terrified cub broke free and began to run for her life.

Within seconds, the duvet was recovered and with lightening speed the boys had pinned the wriggling cub safely to the ground, while Jen broke through the crowd with her syringe of anaesthetic, sending her into a gentle sleep.

After about 10 minutes the boys were able to relax their grip, and we had our first peek at our new family member. With adult teeth just through, she would be six months of age, but out of the tree, she was clearly tiny and considerably underweight for her age. She was also missing her front right paw and had obviously been captured for, or escaped from, a bear farm. Our team carried her over to the truck and loaded her safely into a recovery cage where Jen could then get a proper look and monitor her recovery from the anaesthetic.

Absolutely adorable with a tiny Douglas-shaped crescent, but an attitude growing bigger by the second as she slowly woke up, and began huffing indignantly as we arrived back at base.

A few minutes later, in the quietness of the quarantine polytunnels, her head plunged into her feeding bowl as she greedily sampled the first delights of a proper diet, before demanding more.

As always, so proud of our team – each and every one who dealt with the rescue, the media, the journey and the arrival home, and the ongoing tender loving care of this one lucky cub."

In fact, there is just so much that goes into even a relative simple rescue like this. As well as the “frontline” vet and operational staff, there’s also much preparation work going on behind the scenes:

The bear horticultural team set to work immediately giving the quarantine area a thorough clean and moving heavy cages; stores and maintenance staff readied quarantine boots, shoe covers and cleaning supplies, and prepared extra lighting as darkness approached; our wonderful chef and bear kitchen staff prepared delicious food for both hungry staff and our ravenous new arrival; Security staff braved the freezing outdoors to wait for "Jingle" to arrive; and translators, vet nurses, bear managers and volunteers all pitched in too – making sure everything went smoothly!

And this little cub's story got a great run in the Chinese media!

Please check back soon for the shameful story of "Misa Hai", who spent years being milked for his bile in a dark, dismal cage in a Vietnamese house.

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