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Hercules the brave

Described as a hero of superhuman strength and courage, the mythical Hercules was revered in Greek and Roman history, and ranked amongst the Gods. And just this morning we were looking at our own courageous Hercules as he blinked cautiously from his cage.Herc 1 cageWith his ruggedly handsome face, beautiful melting brown eyes, and paws like dinner plates, here was a bear who simply had no idea that he was part of history in Vietnam.

Hercules is not yet ten years old, yet his whole life since being captured as a traumatised cub in the wild, after presumably witnessing his mother being slaughtered, has been spent caged, lonely and exploited on two separate bile farms in Quang Ninh.leavingNow Hercules is tucking in to his tea with gusto having just arrived at our sanctuary in Tam Dao. The move from his old cage to our large transport cage this morning was as smooth as silk, as was the journey home where he was able to look out of the truck and watch the countryside gliding by, happy to leave his past life behind.

In the space of a few short hours, he's enjoyed afternoon tea of mango, pomelo, and dragon fruit, and relished what is probably the first cooling shower of his life.showerWe have said goodbye to a group of kind officials in Quang Ninh, who have helped our rescues superbly this year, and are clearly delighted to announce that the province is now bear farm free.goodbyeStill, I can never forget the bears we have lost along the way since I joined Tuan, our Vietnam Director, on what were heartbreaking visits to bile farms in that province when we began investigating them in 2007. Bears like Batty Kay, with her distinctive "bat face", would have been instantly recognisable if we ever saw her again. Others too, that farmers refused to give up and continued draining their bile until their bodies succumbed to what must have been the most painful and miserable end. Words can never convey the sorrow of never seeing them again.

But with Hercules settling down tonight in quarantine and listening to the quiet breathing of all the bears around him rescued over the past couple of weeks, today is ground-breaking in every sense of the word.  Tuan has led a relentless campaign, working sensitively and collaboratively with the government, that sees us all celebrating another step closer to ending the vile bile trade in Vietnam.close upEndless respect and thanks to the team today who brought our final bear home - to Weng, Tuan BTS, Lisa, The, Ngoc, and Tien (all overseen by our Bear and Vet team Director  Annemarie, who sadly couldn't join but cheered from the Advancing Bear Care conference today, where she represented the team in Hanoi).groupSo goodnight from Hercules, who has truly earned his name after a herculean journey by the entire Animals Asia team and supporters across the globe over the past 8 years.close up 2Our thanks to you all, for closing this chapter on bear farming in Quang Ninh Province, and for the best of lives Hercules and friends can enjoy.

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