Bodo, our precious gentle giant, passes away peacefully and surrounded by love

23 February 2021

Goodbyes are not forever; goodbyes are not the end. They simply mean “I’ll miss you, until we meet again”.

It is with great sadness that we bring you the news that our beautiful Bodo, an iconic face of Animals Asia, has passed away.

You will probably know Bodo from his ‘boof head’, cuddly 200lb frame and missing front limb. With his distinctive look and gentle character, he was one of the most recognisable and beloved bears at our Chengdu bear sanctuary

Bodo arrived with us in 2003 at the tender age of about one year old, making him around the age of 18 or 19 years old at the time of his passing. Despite being so young, he had already suffered so much at the hands of humans, being captured from the wild and losing his front right leg - likely the result of a snare trap. He spent his first months of life alone, terrified and in pain in a tiny cage.

Yet, testament to the happy soul that he was, Bodo soon put his past behind him and embraced his new life at the sanctuary, growing into a gregarious, playful, food-loving bear.

Animals Asia Founder & CEO Jill Robinson remembers Bodo as a “peacemaker who deliberately broke up disagreements and kept the bear house in order under a kind and watchful eye.” He always joined in with the other bears and never allowed his disability to slow him down, “limping and rolling his way around and doing what he did best – having fun!”

Bodo’s legacy reaches beyond his happy-go-lucky outlook however, as Bodo was included in the Born Free Foundation adopt an animal programme, touching the lives of many around the world. Born Free kindly support the vital work of some of our sanctuary bear carer staff to ensure our rescued bears continue to be properly managed, medicated and fed with love and care. The Born Free Foundation was, as many of you may know, founded by Virginia McKenna OBE. And as fortune would have it, it was Virginia who told Jill to “just do it!” when she was considering starting a foundation to protect bears, all those years ago.  

United in our determination to protect endangered and exploited animals, today our teams and supporters across the world also stand united not only in our grief, but in our gratitude that Bodo spent so many wonderful, carefree years surrounded by humans and bears who loved him dearly.

Bodo’s former veterinarian, Eddie Drayton, explains what happened:

“Bodo was a relatively healthy bear, and it was only in his older years that he developed chronic problems, including arthritis. Last October, it transpired that Bodo had an aggressive type of cancer called lymphoma which we had previously seen in other bears. We didn’t want Bodo to suffer, so agreed to euthanise him before the cancer took away his quality of life. Bodo passed peacefully under anaesthesia.”

Tributes have poured in from our bear care staff, both past and present. Here are just a few of our fondest memories of our beautiful Bodo…

“The last time I saw Bodo was February 2019, before I made my final departure from Chengdu. I approached the pen and was overjoyed when he left some playful wrestling with George to greet me. We shared a lovely few minutes as he lay by the fence listening to me witter on about how wonderful he was before he walked off to continue his business.”  Former Bear & Vet Director, Nicola Field

“Bodo had qualities which made him irresistible and easy to love. I remember seeing him in the dens using his front paw on top of straw to slide along the den floor, which I thought was pretty cool. He was a gentle giant and loved playing with his friends. Bodo, you are now free from pain and can play with George once more. You will be missed.”  Vet Nurse, Natalie Faulds

“Dear Bodo, I have watched you grow up and you had accompanied my growth. You were still in rehabilitation when I first laid eyes on you. I remember you vividly. Back then, you were very timid and frightened as you rolled down from the basket after being awakened from a deep sleep by the other bears. You were so tiny and skinny and in need of protection and love. And then you grew up! You were already a peacemaker when we met again, always the first to make new friends and mediating between other bears. We will always remember you. We love you.” Bear Team Manager, Yang Li 杨丽

And finally, from Bear & Vet Team Director, Ryan Marcel Sucaet:

“I’ll never forget when our team got together to watch and laugh with Bodo, who was standing on a play structure that he had climbed (with only 3 legs!). He was trying his best to balance and grab a leaf with his tongue. He showed remarkable tenacity and courage and, in the end, got a leaf or two. He made us smile so much throughout his life. He was such a friendly and loveable bear that had so much character in his face and expressions. We will all miss him so much. Sleep well, my man, your friend, Ryan.”

Read more:

Bodo relished every day – and every leaf

Bodo and Monkey relaxed together - real life bear hugs!

Bodo celebrated Chinese New year, the year of the Rat, by crashing through a pile of festive boxes!