Caz, one of our most iconic bears, passes away at the age of 18

07 July 2021

We are heartbroken to bring you the news that our “small but mighty” Caz, arguably our Vietnam sanctuary’s most iconic resident, has passed away at the age of 18.

Ten years after Animals Asia rescued Caz from a bile farm at the tender age of eight, the spinal disease that took hold of her young body during that time eventually caught up with her.

She was taken from her mum as a cub and sold into the bear bile industry. She suffered painful repeated bile extraction for eight long, lonely and terrifying years until Animals Asia rescued her and brought her home.

At a crucially important stage of her life, a time she should have been bonding and playing with her family and other bears in the wild, she was forced into a tiny cage that stunted her growth and caused the disease that eventually took her from us.

Our brave little fighter could fight no more.

In March this year, Caz started dragging the paw of her left back leg. Her mobility continued to decline and she took refuge in her favourite spot: the cement tunnel in her enclosure.

The team who cared for Caz encouraged her to come inside her den so they could give her medication and monitor her while she rested. After a few weeks she was showing signs of improvement so she went back outside while we observed her closely to make sure she wasn’t in pain, or struggling.

Sadly, Caz deteriorated once again and she began crawling on her belly. This was probably because the signals from her brain weren’t reaching her legs. Our hearts broke seeing our mighty girl struggling like this and not being able to cure what was causing her so much pain. 

Caz spent her last day at home lying in bed and being spoiled rotten by our sanctuary staff who loved her so much and wanted to grasp as much of the precious time they had left with her. She peacefully closed her eyes for the last time surrounded by all the love in our hearts.

 “Though she be but little, she is fierce.”

Caz was living proof that “the best things come in small packages”. She weighed only 66.5kg - tiny when you consider that the average weight of a female moon bear is 140kg. 

But it was almost like she knew she was small and had decided “I’m not going to be pushed around!” If something happened that she didn’t approve of, she’d let you know straightaway by growling her displeasure and she’d take on bears twice her size if they annoyed her!

When the bear team was dishing out treats, Caz would turn her nose up until she was offered something she really wanted. As Sarah van Herpt, Senior Bear Team Manager who was responsible for looking after Caz recalls, “Anything Caz wanted, she got. She had everyone - staff and bears - wrapped around her little paw!” 

She was an absolute firecracker, utterly charming and a complete diva... and we absolutely adored her.

Caz the one-bear welcome committee

Caz was probably best known as the self-styled Welcome Committee for rescued bears arriving at our sanctuary. Our rescue trucks would park next to her garden in Little Toy Bear House and there she would sit, nose twitching, curious to catch a glimpse and the scent of the newcomer.  

Caz always had to be in on the action and be the first to see what was going on. Bear and Vet Team Director Heidi Quine said, “She was that little old lady who lives down the street who knows everything that’s going on and likes everything to be just so!”

Caz would always steal the show. Heidi continues, “People just couldn’t get enough of Caz. Our Rescue live streams would explode when our supporters saw her! She was our most recognised and asked-after bear and captured people’s hearts, minds, and imaginations.”

Best bear friends

Caz’s colourful character and bombastic approach to life endeared her fellow housemates to her, too. She was popular, of course, but in true Caz style, she was very selective about who she wanted to be friends with, and when. 

One day she took a liking to Sam. Sam was Irene’s best friend, but that didn’t stop our Caz from pinching him from her! 

Bear Team Manager Amanda recalls, “I loved Caz’s on-and-off friendships. Only at certain times of the year would she allow other bears to be friends with her. Watching Caz’s friendships unfold was like having our very own soap opera!”

There’s something about Mary … and Sam!

Good friendships can be like a tonic and help us grow and become our best selves, and this is no different in the moon bear world. 

Caz had a strong personality and she used to always defend herself whenever other bears approached, but everything changed when she met Mary,” Bear Team Supervisor Gai remembers.

“Their blossoming friendship transformed Caz's way of thinking and nurtured her into a friendly and socially confident bear. She also had a really good time with Sam. Their time together was always filled with joy and happiness, and it marked the period during which Caz was living her life to the fullest.”

“Parting is such sweet sorrow”

Caz touched the hearts of so many people, both those who were lucky enough to meet her, and those who followed her from around the world. 

“Though we had to say goodbye to Caz, our lives are infinitely richer for knowing her,” Sarah said. “She may have been the smallest adult bear at our sanctuary, but in reality she was a titan.”

“The impact she had on people across the world was profound. From her antics delighting staff across Animals Asia, to people watching live streams of Caz welcoming new bears home and doing beautiful drawings of her to raise vital funds for our sanctuary, all the way to my sister in New Zealand who asked about her weekly, Caz was a true ambassador for her friends.”

Sarah continues, “She deserved so much better than what she faced in her early years. But she had so many years of joy and love with us, and I am honoured to have been a small part of caring for her.”

In Caz’s honour we will keep the promise we made to every last bear remaining on bile farms in Vietnam: we will bring every last one of them home.