Vets battle immense heat for the moon bears

03 June 2014

Wendy, Jen and Vicki

Animals Asia’s vet team battled heat as high as 36 degrees centigrade in a marathon moon bear surgery session lasting nearly nine hours without a break.

The team comprising Vet Surgeon Jen O’Dwyer, Senior Vet Nurse Wendy Leadbeater and Vet Nurse Vicki Elliott started operating first on Delilah - on the floor of the former bear bile farm that is being taken over by Animals Asia.

The surgery almost got off to the worst possible start with Delilah stopping breathing and having to be resuscitated.  A decision was made to press on once the bear stabilised.

Later, three of Delilah’s canine teeth, most likely damaged by both poor diet and frustrated bar biting, were described by Jen as the worst she had seen in 15 years. It took over three hours to remove them.  The bear was also readied to have an eye removed but with such a long time spent on dental work the plan had to be abandoned.

Pickle's teeth

Without a break and with temperatures rising, the team started work on Pickle - a bear whose claws they discovered had been previously removed at finger tip level and several of her teeth sawed back to the bone (above).  These procedures often occur in bear farms and it is unknown whether Pickle underwent this process before she arrived at Nanning.

Jen removed what was left of her teeth and fragments with Pickle also suffering a suspected cataract in one eye and an infected wound where bile had previously been extracted.

Jen and Jill

The team was also assisted by Animals Asia founder Jill Robinson who said:

“For most people just spending that amount of time in that heat would be physically impossible.  To do that without a break while undertaking the physically and mentally draining work that they did here - well it’s just incredible. It’s unspoken but we know that these feats from our team are inspired by the bears themselves.  They push themselves knowing what the bears have been through. This is for them

“Today was what these kind of days always are.  Happy, sad, depressing and rewarding.  We know, sooner or later, there will also be bears that we find we can’t help. Inoperable tumours are our worst fears and that hangs over all the team. The work will continue tomorrow.”

The aim is to treat seven bears in three days, however, with the severity of the issues faced on day one the schedule may have to be adjusted.

See also: Nanning Diaries Live.