Blind bear can’t see the outside world is waiting for her, even as her friends play on the grass

12 March 2019

Rescued bear Mai went blind as a result of stress and neglect on a bear bile farm, and now that she’s safe she still doesn’t dare go outside. 

When moon bear Mai was rescued by Animals Asia last August from 13 years of abuse on a bear bile farm, it quickly became clear that she was blind.

Chronic stress, neglect and an unsuitable diet of over so many days, months and years caused cataracts to spread over both her eyes leaving her essentially blind.

Yet all through her rescue and rehabilitation at Animals Asia’s award-winning Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre, Mai remained calm. This diminutive bear showed little outward sign of her inner trauma.

She played gently in her den, loved to enjoy long baths in her paddling pool and was a perfect playmate to the other rescued bears.

Sadly, now that she has built up strength and the door to the outside world has been opened, Mai’s progress has stalled.

She can’t see the outdoor world, packed with play structures, waiting for her. She doesn’t know how green the grass is, that there are bugs to be found scramble in the undergrowth and that her bear friends are out there foraging and exploring, just as they would in the wild.

Animals Asia Bear Manager Sarah van Herpt said:

“Rehabilitation was always going to be more difficult for Mai than for other bears due to her almost complete blindness. It’s very sad to see her in the den when there is a natural and completely safe playground waiting for her.

“But in time, we’re sure Mai will work up the courage – perhaps following the scent of tasty food or her playmates – to take a chance on the unknown. We won’t rush her, she’ll take this big step at her own pace and when she’s comfortable.”

Animals Asia is exploring medical options which could partially restore Mai’s sight and there are hopes a specialist veterinary eye doctor could be able to visit the sanctuary in the coming months.

Mai currently lives with fellow moon bar Newtie (formerly known as Star) and Mekong, who have been revelling in access to space, grass and trees for the first time since being poached from the wild.

Sadly, bears rescued from the bile industry often struggle to overcome the transition to a larger environment due to their extreme confinement over years and decades.

Animals Asia has rescued over 600 bears and aims to see every bear eventually able not only to adjust to a den, but to enjoy spacious, outdoor enclosure access too.

In the past few months numerous bears rescued last year by Animals Asia, such as sun bear Aurora and moon bear Kim, have successfully taken their first steps in outdoor enclosures to feel the grass under the paws and the sun on their backs.

Animals Asia Vietnam Bear and Vet Team Director Heidi Quine said:

“Every bear is an individual and reacts differently to both the extreme cruelty they have suffered at the hands of the bear bile industry and to their subsequent rescue and rehabilitation. We know from hard-won experience that each bear needs to be allowed to take rehabilitation at their own pace. In time, I’m sure we’ll see Mai out on the grass playing with new toys and enjoying her new life, free from fear and pain in sanctuary.

Mai rests on bed