After a dozen years of cruelty rescued bears discover the joy of friendship

06 February 2018

After 12 years alone in tiny cages so their bile could be extracted for traditional medicine, rescued moon bears Holly and Manu play for the first time.

Moon bears Holly and Manu were poached from the wild and kept in tiny cages on a Vietnamese bear bile farm since at least 2005.

They had no ability to carry out natural behaviours, interact with other bears, forage for food, touch grass or climb trees.

Instead they stood on metal bars with just enough room to stand up and turn around. They ate rice gruel and waited in isolation for the bile, stored in their gall bladders, to be extracted with needles for use in traditional medicine.

Thankfully, this awful existence is over and Manu, Holly and four other bears rescued by Animals Asia in December 2017 as part of the #WishComeTrue rescue are ready to begin their new lives.

Each has finished quarantine, received health care and moved to large indoor dens – the largest spaces they have known since being caught in the wild so many years ago.

It’s been less than two months since pain and suffering ended, but already Manu and Holly have been integrated and are becoming the best of friends.


Animals Asia Bear Manager Sarah van Herpt said:

“Despite missing parts of both limbs on her left side, and suffering from arthritis in the limbs on her right side, Holly is a really active bear. We all felt she was full of sass and this was confirmed when she met her new friend Manu.

“She was desperate to play almost from the first moment and now we know Holly plays rough! Manu is much bigger than her but she immediately started playfully wrestling her, tugging on her rough and jumping on her back. It was really beautiful to see. Manu was clearly quite surprised but she soon started to enjoy the fun too.”

The two new best friends got on so well that Holly even let Manu come and share her food after Manu had finished all of hers.

Manu in the den at the sanctuary

Animals Asia Bear and Vet Team Director Heidi Quine said:

“Integrating new bears is never an easy process and we have to take great care to work out which personalities are likely to result in a mutually beneficial friendship.

“There is a lot of monitoring to be done and a good bit of trial and error, but in the case of Holly and Manu, it has worked out perfectly. They seem to be a really good match for each other and it is incredibly rewarding to see them both playing happily with their first ever friend after all they’ve been through.”

 Bear bile farming has been technically illegal in Vietnam since 1992, but has managed to persist due to legal loopholes.

It is believed that around 1,000 bears continue to be held in appalling conditions around the country.

In 2017, Animals Asia signed a legally binding contract with the Vietnamese government that will see every last bile farm closed and every bear moved to sanctuaries by 2022.

To date, Animals Asia has rescued more than 600 bears – mostly from the bear bile industry – in Vietnam and China.

Holly in her bed in the den