Buddha Bear Goes Outside

19 April 2013

A little over three months after Buddha bear was rescued from an illegal bile farm, she has taken her biggest step - out from her den into to enjoy the sunshine and grass of an open enclosure.

The step follows a period of quarantine, rest and rehabilitation at Animals Asia’s sanctuary in Chengdu, China. Previously it’s believed it’s likely she had spent her whole life in a bile farm cage, possibly for as long as a decade, suffering daily extractions.

Following her first health check vets reported that her teeth were cracked and rotten from poor diet and years of bar biting. Her cracked paws were in a terrible condition with indentations from the bars, while her claws were so overgrown they were puncturing her pads. Worst of all was her gall bladder which was later removed and found to be three times the normal size - meaning she must have lived with tremendous pain for years.

Three weeks earlier she had progressed from her recovery cage to a den. Her confidence, despite years of confinement, alongside other logistical considerations, meant she was chosen to be first of the New Year Rescue bears to take the step.

Pictures taken by watching sanctuary staff show a seemingly relaxed bear considering this huge step as she looks out from her den - repeatedly looking up at the sun and sniffing the air. Eventually she follows a trail of treats luring her out into the sunshine.

Bear Manager Sofie Meilvang watched events unfold, later commenting:

“As she left the den she looked up at the sun, something she did again and again, sniffing all the time. She did a little bit of digging, even rooting around and turning stones to look for treats. She was exceptionally brave.”

The other five bears Peter, Shamrock, Mac, Katie and Xuan Xuan will soon follow Buddha bear as she slowly grows used to her new environment. Her next step will be a gradual integration with the sanctuary’s resident bears.

The news of Buddha’s big step came as Animals Asia was marking the milestone of 20 years since founder Jill Robinson first stepped onto a bile farm and vowed to campaign for their closure.

Jill commented:

“Nobody could fail to be moved by brave Buddha bear as she takes this step into the sunshine. Mentally this is a massive step but she has always been such a strong, calm bear. Moon bears can be very expressive - the pictures of her standing at the front of the den looking outside are incredibly moving. It’s hard not to wonder what she’s contemplating and while her steps were slow and deliberate it was a perfect entrance on a sunny, spring day. Her rehabilitation will continue but she looked to be genuinely enjoying the moment. Perhaps even taking her time to enjoy it. Just maybe it was finally sinking in that the torture of the bile farm was behind her forever. There is lots more sunshine ahead for Buddha to enjoy”