Bear cub ‘Wonder’ is rescued from illegal traffickers and arrives safely at Animals Asia’s Vietnam sanctuary

17 September 2021

Late on Monday night, our Vietnam sanctuary team was contacted by a police officer in the Dien Bien border region of North Vietnam. They had confiscated a bear cub from an illegal wildlife trafficker and asked us to come and rescue them.

The police had been tipped off by Education For Nature Vietnam (ENV) who had been monitoring the traffickers’ movements for a month. They intercepted the trafficker as he crossed the border from Laos to likely sell the cub into bear bile farming or as an exotic pet. 

As the cub is so small - around 30kg - it’s also likely they were snatched from the wild and saw their mother being killed as she would have fought fiercely to protect her cub. 

A hopeful new future 

From the heartbreaking video the police had sent of the little bear in a tiny cage, we saw that they have a beautiful, distinctive ‘W’ shaped crescent on their chest. So we have nicknamed this little one ‘Wonder’ because there are many things we don’t know about them... 

We wonder where they came from, we wonder how they suffered and what became of their mother. We wonder what would have happened if they hadn’t been saved from an unknown yet certain terrifying fate.

But what we did know is that this little cub would soon be safe in our care, and will never have to suffer and be scared or alone ever again.

The rescue mission begins

Dien Bien is around 500km from our sanctuary in Tam Dao and travel between provinces is strictly restricted due to the current covid-19 situation, so our rescue team couldn’t rush to go and get the cub as they normally would.

Before our team could even leave the sanctuary they each had to take a covid-19 test, await the results and be given the all-clear. They sent our Bear Cub Care Guide to the Dien Bien police to ensure they could take care of the cub until we reached them.

Thankfully all members of our rescue team were cleared to travel and on Wednesday they began the long journey to Dien Bien. They had to stop at regular checkpoints to prove they were safe to travel between provinces. 

Thankfully, the Dien Bien police had sponsored our journey to ensure it was as smooth and quick as possible. 

Our rescue team arrives!

Early on Thursday morning the Animals Asia rescue team arrived at the police station and went straight to the tiny cub.

Rescue leader and Bear Team Manager, Hiep, immediately crouched down to their level and began talking in a calm, soothing tone as he offered the cub honey and dried fruit on a long spoon.

At first the cub was understandably nervous at this new person, but soon became more confident as Hiep kept feeding them tasty treats. They even started reaching out of their temporary cage to grab fruit from Hiep’s hand!

The police had been feeding the cub different kinds of fruit and the cub showed a preference for watermelon, so we will be sure to feed them lots of that in the coming days and weeks.

Moving the cub from their temporary cage, into the transport cage and onto the rescue van was a smooth, easy and calm process as Hiep kept the cub distracted with tasty snacks and continued talking to them throughout. 

Once on the van, the team and police staff chopped down some banana leaves to put in the transport cage for the cub to chomp and curl up with on the journey home, as well as plenty of lovely fresh fruit and water. 

Home at last

Today, the team and cub arrived safely at our sanctuary where the cub will be taken to have an initial health check and we can determine their gender.

They will then be moved to our quarantine area where they will spend 45 days adjusting to their new environment. Our team will start the process of building the cub’s trust in us and confidence that they are finally safe and their new, happy life is just beginning. 

After this essential quarantine period Wonder will begin to be able to get a feel for the real wonders of sanctuary life; stepping outside, making new friends, foraging for treats and being cared for with the kindness you make possible.

With heartfelt thanks to all our supporters, everyone who has donated to help rescue this little bear, to the Dien Bien Police for their quick thinking and commendable actions and to ENV for their efforts in monitoring and exposing the trafficking operation. 

To help this little bear heal from his/her traumatic past, please donate today.

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