“Bear cubs are cute, but rescuing them breaks my heart”

15 October 2015

Misty (latterly Nora JamJack) and Rain playing at VBRC, 2012

It’s hard to imagine anything cuter than a baby bear – each time a cub arrives at an Animals Asia sanctuary it’s cause for excitement - but it’s also a tragedy.

The cubs that Animals Asia raises at its Vietnam sanctuary are as a result of seizures by the Forestry Protection Department, who work along long borders with Laos and China. Risking their lives, FPD officials pursue smugglers through treacherous mountain routes and overgrown forests. If there were no FPD then there would be little deterrent – and no chance of keeping these cubs out of bile farms.

But by the time the cubs reach Animals Asia their whole world has already been dismantled. They’ve faced anxiety, stress and sadness, which will shape their young lives. They’ve been saved from the clutches of cruelty, but they are not equipped to be released again into the wild.

Vietnam Bear and Vet Team Director Annemarie Weegenaar said: 

“Our cubs are cute, but rescuing them breaks my heart. Most often, the poachers have killed the mothers of these cubs – who protect their children with their lives. In the wild, mothers care for their cubs for about two years. But when cubs are stolen from their mothers, it’s up to us to comfort them when needed and offer them a safe environment to grow up in.

“It’s so gratifying to see a young cub like Murphy become a confident, inquisitive and playful bear, after weeks of patient guidance from our bear workers. When Murphy first learned to walk without stumbling, we all felt like standing up and cheering. But we’ll never forget that we shouldn’t have had to be the ones to encourage him.”

These tiny cubs are small enough to be carried in backpacks by smugglers. Even though the FPD manages to save them, they can’t do anything to prevent the crime they’ve already committed – killing these stolen cubs’ mothers.

Annemarie added:

“These cubs are endangered. Their mothers were also endangered – in the same category as tigers and Asian elephants. And every cub we welcome into our sanctuary means less bears left in the wild.

“We’ll guarantee these cubs a lifetime of care and a good quality of life. Our promise to everyone else is – we won’t rest till we’ve ended bear bile farming, and ended the killing and abuse of bears.”

Elsie (L) and Wilf (R) playing on the logs (1)