Circus trauma left moon bear cub Sugar too scared to eat, but in sanctuary life grows sweeter every day

30 August 2019

Patience, love and expert care has given bear cub Sugar the confidence she needs to know she is safe after the horror of poaching and circus trauma.

When Animals Asia investigators discovered moon bear cubs Sugar and Spice being forced to perform in a Vietnamese circus, the duo were traumatised.

On stage, the sisters were made to ride motorbikes, and when they inevitably crashed, the ringmasters simply hauled the cubs back to their feet by the scruff of the neck and put them back on the bikes.

Even once rescued and safely at Animals Asia’s award-winning Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre, Sugar remained deeply scared of humans.

She spent her days hiding on a high platform or cowering behind her bolder sister Spice and never dared to eat in front of her carers.

But Animals Asia’s bear care team are the most experienced in the country when it comes to caring for abused bear cubs and they knew that with love, patience, persistence and expert care, Sugar would come to realise she was safe.

Lovely profile of Sugar

Animals Asia Senior Bear Manager Sarah van Herpt said:

“The transformation we’ve seen in Sugar has been simply amazing. She was incredibly traumatised, but now she has learned to trust her carers and will even come to be hand fed.

“She is spending lots of time outside playing with her sister and looks incredibly happy and relaxed when playing with puzzle feeders or relaxing on her favourite swing.”

When rescued, Sugar and Spice, who are siblings, weighed just 36 and 50 kilogrammes respectively and are believed to be under a year old.

With no survival skills nor safe space for wild release, it is expected that both cubs will spend the rest of their lives – hopefully up to 30 years – in Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre, the only sanctuary accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries in the country.

An Animals Asia investigation in 2017 revealed that circuses across Vietnam were routinely forcing endangered and protected species to perform while 100% of facilities failed to meet the basic needs of the animals.

To date, no facility has been able to explain the origin of their protected species, yet the rescue of Sugar and Spice marks the first time the authorities have taken punitive action against a circus or tourist facility in possession of a protected species.

Sugar explores her enclosure

With facilities unable to breed bears and their poaching and sale illegal, serious questions remain as to how the animals are being obtained.

Animals Asia is currently petitioning the Vietnam government to ban wild animal performance and send the animals to recognised rescue centres and sanctuaries. 

The petition currently has more than 130,000 signatures and will be presented to the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism.

It is unacceptable that animals like Sugar and Spice are being poached from the wild and sold into cruel captivity to be traumatised simply for a moment’s entertainment for the crowd.

Speak up for these voiceless victims, add your name to the petition today demanding all wild animal performances be banned in Vietnam.

DSC_0733Sugar explores her enclosure