#9Lives: People around the world give new lives to nine bears rescued from extreme cruelty

24 July 2018

For nine bears in Vietnam, global support has replaced fear, pain and sickness with good health, open space and firm friends.

When Animals Asia got word in summer 2017 of nine bears trapped on a bile farm in Vietnam’s Binh Duong province, the charity knew they had to save them. But it was only possible because hundreds of people around the world felt the same way, too.

Thanks to an appeal through email and social media, funds were raised to send a rescue team consisting of vets, nurses and bear carers over 1,000 miles. Their mission: to open cages which were never designed to be opened, and bring the bears safely back to sanctuary.

It was a huge operation, but four days later all nine bears were safely home. This was the beginning of their new lives, but they couldn’t know then that everything had changed.

The bears still had to complete a 45-day quarantine period during which time they were given the health care they’d never had.

A litany of painful and life-affecting issues were found from infected teeth and gums to malnutrition, arthritis and cataracts. Two bears were even discovered to be missing parts of their tongues in a gruesome example of just what scant regard had been given to their care over the last decade.

Next the bears were transferred to sanctuary dens – large indoor enclosures. For the bears, these were the largest spaces they had known since being poached from the wild.

The bears had been kept in such cramped cages all that time that many of them had barely any muscle mass left – it had all wasted away through inactivity.

In the dens the bears tested their limbs for the first time by climbing into comfortable hanging baskets and playing with enrichment items designed to stimulate their bodies and minds and encourage their natural behaviours.

It was here that many of the bears met for the first time. In controlled conditions, their carers carefully ascertained which bears were likely to get on, who was physically and emotionally ready, and who needed more time.


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Animals Asia Bear Manager Lauren Werrey said:

“The star of the integrations was undoubtedly Wolfie. He is a super-friendly bear who has just loved meeting everyone. Not only is he always ready to play with a new bear friend, but he’s also very empathetic and respectful – he’s very quick to realise when another bear would rather be left alone. But when play starts, he forgets everything. He was playing so happily with Oscar in a raised basket one day that both bears forgot where they were and fell out!”

first time V186 Wolfie has the pool

Unlike many of the other bears, Wolfie doesn’t seem to have any serious long-term health problems as a result of his incarceration, but mentally the confinement took a toll on this most active of bears.

His head was marked by sores from where he had repeatedly rubbed it against the bars in anguish, while the sides of his mouth were scarred from vainly trying to chew his cage door open.

V185 Chom Chom

Thankfully, for Wolfie and all of the #9Lives bears, the doors are now open and all nine bears are once again free to run on the grass and play beneath the immensity of the sky, surrounded by forest.

Lauren said:

“The first time outside after rescue can be quite traumatic with some bears taking months to work up the courage. Moon bear Jane was very distrustful of people and other bears when rescued and it took time for her to believe that she could be safe outside. But now she is out there running around, curiously interacting with all the new things that appear there every day.”

V131 Michael, V185 Chom Chom, V186 Wolfie (2)

One year on from their rescue, all off the #9Lives bears have been integrated with a community in which they feel comfortable. Chom Chom and Wolfie live in a community with 14 bears, while Binh An and Song Be live in a group of 11. The five other bears from the rescue – Xanadu, Jeffery, Jane, Dieu and Soul live a large community of 20 bears.

The #9Lives bears have had lots of support in their process of rehabilitation. Both Wolfie and Jane have celebrity sponsors in actor Robert Lindsey and author Jane Fallon, while Xanadu is named in honour of Animals Asia’s good friend actress Olivia Newton-John.

Binh An enjoys a sweet potato

But the real heroes are the hundreds of people who chip in what they can – not only to rescue the bears in the first place – but to keep them safe, happy, healthy and stimulated for the rest of their lives.

Animals Asia Founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE said:

“We expect the #9Lives bears to enjoy many long and happy years with us in our sanctuary – and will be doing everything possible to ensure that they will spend more years loving their days  here than they spent suffering on that awful farm. We’ll be with them now until the end, working every day with the help of supporters around the world to heal these bears and to put their needs first. Because they deserve nothing less.” 

If you are willing to help give new lives filled with happiness to bears who have suffered unimaginable cruelty on bear bile farms, join Animals Asia today and give monthly so that their future can be assured.