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Long road to recovery

Thursday, 22nd April
6.30am, and our patient was bright and alert. Clearly still uncomfortable from the surgery, Oliver managed to take his medication mixed up in strawberry jam, honey and condensed milk, and eat some pineapple and watermelon. The other bears tucked into their food with gusto, and a happy Boris announced that the truck had been fixed overnight and was about 20km away.

By 8.30am, we were on the road again and heading closer to home, much to the relief of Bear Team Leader Howard:

Stopping for lunch, Oliver began perking up well – more watermelon taken and happily accepting a shower from Heather. So far, so good. 

Even now, their personalities are slowly shining through. The second the door opens to her truck, little Monkey is sitting up at her cage – perk and alert, silly ears twitching, and eyes hungrily following the food bowl from bucket to bucket as it's filled with an assortment of food. Astrid who looks like a black/brown hybrid (though we think she could be a pure brown), named by vet Monica, is known as the "blonde" because she doesn't quite see the world in the same way as the others.

Happily crunching the rind of a watermelon and leaving the gorgeous fleshy pink fruit inside, she also puzzles about rawhide chews covered in cheese spread and peanut butter, which bears like humongous Rocky are devouring in almost one bite. At one point she was seen standing on hers and we left her happily contemplating whether to eat it, play with it or ignore it. It's little wonder this beautiful bear is confused given that she spent up to 15 years on the terrible farm:

The cold and rain of the north now changes into the warmer weather of Sichuan. Everyone is exhausted and we all need a shower but, once again, optimism prevails as previously hopeless bears are given a new stab at life by people who do all they can to understand their suffering, their characters and their needs.

2am and the trucks roll in. The team we left behind in Chengdu led by Nic and Rocky had made sure everything was prepared and ready to welcome our new family members home. Our amazing "A Team" set to work carefully but quickly unloading each bear from the trucks.

By 4am Oliver was in the hospital now more comfortably recovering from his surgery of the day before, and little brown bear Kylie had joined him in preparation for her surgery early next week. The eight remaining bears were gently wheeled into our “Polytunnels” quarantine area to be spoiled like royalty in preparation for the surgery they would all be facing over the next few weeks. 

My never-ending thanks not only to our most special staff across the world, but to friends and supporters whose faith and generosity – and sheer love of bears – helps each needy individual each time a farm is closed. With this bear farm finally shut down, the whole province of Shandong is now officially bear-farm free – and a tally of 20 provinces out of 31 have pledged never to farm these animals again.

Our goal of ending bear farming in China sees 276 bears rescued so far, and our unrelenting promise that their story will touch the world and teach our children that bears, like Monkey, like Oliver, like Rocky and Astrid, were born into their own world of freedom and choices, and not ours of exploitation and abuse.

And, finally with great pleasure, our latest "roll call" announcing our 10 special new bears:

Rustin, a male moon bear – hernia, healed extraction site, scarring on abdomen with thickened, raised tissue. All pads hyperkeratotic (severely dry and cracked) with bar imprints across front pads. Opaque fluid leaking from nostril. Needs removal of gall bladder.

Kylie, a female brown bear - Estimated weight 160kgs. Huge hernia leaking purulent bile, latex catheter and metal jacket scars. Farmer said not used for bile extraction for past year (????). Wouldn't lie fully down on abdomen – squatted at back of cage. Teeth cut back. Needs dental and removal of gall bladder.

Baxter, a male moon bear – Est 140kgs. Open fistula. Thin bear – purulent pasty yellow bile discharged at fistula site. Hyperkeratotic foot pads, with bar indentations. Tartar on all teeth. Needs dental and removal of gall bladder.

Erdi, a female moon bear. Est 150kgs. No fistula, not farmed for one year apparently, alopecia both fore legs. Grabby and swipey bear – very aggressive. Healed external site scar. No jacket scars. Needs dental and removal of gall bladder.

Nica, a female moon bear. Est 150kgs. Big curly ruff. Hernia and thickened scar tissue. Very firm long object inside abdomen – catheter? Hyperkeratotic foot pads and bar indentations in all. K9's cut to gum level. Needs dental and removal of gall bladder.

Ping Guo (Apple), a female moon bear. Est 150kgs. No fistula (healed), metal jacket scar. Needs removal of gall bladder.

Monkey, a female moon bear. Est 100kgs. Swollen abdomen, open bloody fistula with ring of scar tissue, hernia, plus firm swelling and scaring, metal jacket scar, ears on stalks, bald neck, scruffy looking. Small chunk out of right ear. Small scar and alopecia or small patch on nose. Black enamel and black pigmentation on gums. Needs dental and removal of gall bladder.

Rocky, a male brown bear. Est 250-260kg ++ Huge, HUGE brown bear – very thick stainless steel catheter, metal jacket scar. Killed his keeper at zoo then sent to farm. Teeth awful. Needs dental and removal of gall bladder.

Astrid, a female brown bear or black/brown hybrid. Est 250kg. Open draining fistula and possible hernia, free drip, metal jacket scars. Teeth awful – one K9 cut to gum with pulp cavity infected and impacted with food. Needs dental and removal of gall bladder.

Oliver, a male brown bear. Est 220kgs. Big head, short legs, tissue spilling out of fistula, catheter wire visible, metal jacket scar. Thin and eyes sunken. Farmer said he could be 30 years old! Spends long period of time lying down. K9s cut back. Needs dental and removal of gall bladder.

To read more about these brave bears and the rescue, and to see film footage and more photos, please click here.

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