101 bears home: Bärack’s story

12 June 2021

The beautiful, bombastic Bärack walked into our lives and hearts in 2014 when we first visited the bile farm at Nanning. The farm was part of a huge horticulture business which had been sold to a new owner in 2013.

The new owner decided he didn’t want to participate in bear bile farming, so he reached out to Animals Asia to ask for our help. It was agreed that the now-ex bile farm would be turned into a sanctuary for the bears.

Bärack tells us his story

When we arrived at Nanning, we gave each bear a health check. Bärack was extremely thin, weighing 70kg while the weight of a healthy male moon bear is around 120+kg. Like many bile bears, his gall bladder was infected, so we operated to remove it which eased his pain dramatically.

His claws and most of his teeth were missing and the teeth he had left had been worn down or broken from years of chewing the bars of his cage.

He was suffering with arthritis and couldn’t bend his back legs, causing him to walk with a stiff, uneasy gait, and high blood pressure, two other common ailments in bile bears. His tongue was also hanging around eight inches outside his mouth, which we suspect is a result of a nerve being snagged when his teeth were being removed.

Bärack’s story takes a happy turn

As well as assessing the bears’ needs, we began making improvements to their surroundings. We doubled the size of their outside space and gave them lots of enrichment items such as paddling pools and fire hose hammocks, which they absolutely loved! 

We also gave them regular, balanced meals and tasty treats throughout the day and it was a joy to watch them enjoying the new tastes and textures. Bärack started to put weight on and move around easier, signs that he was more comfortable and getting better.

One step forward, two steps back

Our plan to convert the farm into our second bear sanctuary in China was abandoned in 2015 when a developer bought the land from the original owner who contacted us.

“We quickly decided that although it would be a huge undertaking and something that had never been attempted anywhere in the world, we would move every last bear to our current sanctuary in Chengdu, 750 miles away”, Jill Robinson, Animals Asia CEO explained.

Over the next seven years, the ownership of the horticulture centre, and the bear facility changed several more times. Our agreement and application to move the bears had to be renegotiated many times over, leaving the bears and our plans in limbo.

Through these uncertain years, our incredible team in China was with the bears every day, caring for them and ensuring they were as comfortable and happy as possible.

The last journey begins 

In April 2021, we finally got approval to move Bärack and his friends to our Chengdu sanctuary, thanks to the Sichuan and Guangxi authorities.

The bears were moved in three stages, with Bärack being taken in the first phase. Due to his health needs and mobility issues, Bärack was one of the few to be anaesthetised to move him into his transport cage to reduce any stress or injury it might cause.

Once on the road, Bärack settled down well, spending hours building comfy nests from piles of straw which he regularly rearranged, and thoroughly enjoying the many tasty snacks we gave him along the way.

Bärack arrives at his forever home

When Bärack arrived at our Chengdu sanctuary, he was moved into our ‘Special Care’ area, a specially built section of the sanctuary for those who need a bit of extra TLC and where we could monitor him to make sure he was settling into his new environment.

Over the next few weeks, Bärack adjusted really well to the new sights, smells and sounds of the sanctuary and spent ages investigating his new den. He even pushed himself up on his shaky back legs to get a glimpse of his new neighbours!

One small step to freedom

Bärack was the first of the 101 bears to bravely venture into his outside enclosure, and the first to put his paws onto grass after only a few days of checking it out. We were surprised and overjoyed to see how well he handled it and how quickly he took to his new surroundings.

“It was the most beautiful thing to see Bärack venture outside for the first time.” Ryan Marcel Sucaet, Bear & Vet Team Director said. “It brought it home to us the reason we embarked on this mammoth mission in the first place. It made the struggles, the tears and the uncertainties of the past eight years worth every minute.”

Since then, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Bärack has spent his entire life outside! He spends ages rolling around, foraging, and playing with all the wonderful textures and toys that nature has to offer, such as logs, sticks and of course the lush, fresh grass.

On passing Bärack’s enclosure one day, Ryan was delighted to notice that Bärack’s tongue had actually turned green from all the grass he’d been snuffling and chomping his way through! 

Bärack’s happy ending

Bärack’s incredible story signifies hope, inspiration and new beginnings. He reminds us every day to enjoy the small, simple things in life and that regardless of what we’ve been through, there is always hope of a happier future.


Read more: Animals Asia brings 101 bears home in largest ever operation of its kind