Animals Asia rescues the last caged bear in Gia Lai Province Vietnam

08 July 2020

Three months ago, a lonely caged moon bear in the Vietnam province of Gia Lai was just hours away from freedom. The Animals Asia rescue team had already given her the name of Cotton Blossom, after the trees that were flowering back at her future home at Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre in Tam Dao, more than 1,000 km away. But as they were poised to rescue this last remaining caged bear in the province on the border with Cambodia, Covid-19 sabotaged their plans. Forced to abandon their rescue due to the strict coronavirus lockdowns, the team had no choice but to wait for the opportunity to return.

At the end of June, that opportunity finally arrived.

Early last Tuesday morning local time, the Animals Asia rescue team made their way to the military post where Cotton Blossom had been kept caged for some 14 years. “With a rescue, you never really know what to expect", said Animals Asia’s Vietnam Director, Tuan Bendixsen. “Fortunately, we found Cotton Blossom to be a very calm bear, weighing around 120kg. She responded well to the sweet treats she was offered. Even the sound of the angle grinder cutting open her cage door didn’t distract her. And she voluntarily entered the transport cage to begin the long journey to her new home.”

That journey took the better part of four days, covering nearly 1,100 km from the Gia Lai province in the south of Vietnam, to Animals Asia’s sanctuary in Tam Dao National Park, an hour north of Hanoi. After arrival at the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre, Cotton Blossom will spend at least 45 days in quarantine and will be given a full health check by the Vet team.

“After quarantine she will be moved into a larger den, then once she feels comfortable, she will finally have the chance to walk on the grass and feel the sun on her face – for possibly the first time since she was a cub,” said Tuan. “And after twenty long years of isolation in a cage, she will have the freedom to make friends with some of the other nearly 200 bears we care for at the sanctuary.”

Animals Asia has an exclusive Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Vietnamese government to rescue the last 500 bears that remain on bile farms across the country. This rescue brings that goal one step closer, with another province now free of bear farms. The Gia Lai Forestry Protection Department’s (FPD) official documents stated the reason Animals Asia was chosen to rescue this last remaining bear in the province was because “Animals Asia has been working with Gia Lai FPD in some recent rescues, and achieved very positive outcomes, plus the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre is the best facility to meet all national standards for rescued bears.”

V217 Cotton Blossom arrival 3.7.20

When the original rescue in March had to be abandoned, the staff at the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre planted a Cotton Blossom tree as a promise to this bear that they would never leave her behind. Now, three months later, they have kept that promise. Preparations were made for her arrival. Her house was cleaned, her bed was made, a hearty, wholesome feast was prepared. For twenty years she has endured a dark, dark winter, but now the team are delighted to welcome her to her new life, and they're looking forward to seeing her bloom, like a cotton blossom in spring.

Follow the Cotton Blossom's rehabilitation at the Vietnam Bear rescue Centre on social media Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You can also donate to support the rehabilitation and care of Cotton Blossom here.