Coconut, one of our 101 homecoming bears, passes away surrounded by love

18 June 2021

It is with heavy hearts that we share the news that the beautiful, sweet Coconut, one of the 101 bears we recently moved from Nanning bile farm to our sanctuary in Chengdu, has passed away.

Our sanctuary team found her lying on her belly inside her den, facing her enclosure, taking her last breaths.

Vet Nurse Natalie Faulds explains what happened on that sad morning; “I got a call from our Remote Vet, Jen O’Dwyer asking if I could check on Coconut as she wasn’t moving. I rushed over to Coconut’s enclosure still in my pyjamas, and met the team who were assessing her situation.”

Coconut had suffered from an aneurysm, a rapid and fatal bleed in the brain. Thankfully, it happened very quickly and she didn’t suffer.

She was surrounded by people who loved her dearly as she quietly and calmly passed away ten minutes later. Vet Jen O’Dwyer continues, “Coconut didn’t struggle, she simply took her last breath and slipped away quietly as if saying ‘I am free now’.”

Coconut’s story

The simply-stunning Coconut captured the hearts of everyone who met and cared for her over the eight years we were at the ex-bile farm facility in Nanning. 

She was one of the most gentle and sensitive bears and had clearly been affected by her time there, her weakened body and repetitive behaviours telling us of the trauma she had experienced.

When the Bear & Vet Team first arrived at Nanning in 2014 we noticed that Coconut was wobbly on her hind legs and sometimes struggled to walk. As she was a fabulously big bear, she needed extra space to fully stretch her legs and to exercise, so we moved her to a bigger yard and gave her pain relief.

Coconut, along with all the other bears, received a varied and nutritious diet, lots of delicious snacks and an abundance of enrichment items such as hessian sacks which, as Bear & Vet Team Director, Ryan Marcel Sucaet remembers, Coconut “absolutely loved, she’d sometimes put it on her head and sit there happily!”

Within no time at all, Coconut’s coat started to thicken, she was calmer and more content and had blossomed into a beautiful, rounded bear.

Coconut’s homecoming

For eight years, and more before that, Coconut had waited patiently for her time in the sun. And on 19 April, 2021 we were finally able to make her dream come true and move her 750 miles to our sanctuary. 

Coconut was one of the first bears to be moved in our month-long operation to transport all 101 bears from Nanning to Chengdu. We couldn’t wait to get her home! 

It was at Chengdu that her character really started to emerge. As Ryan told us; “watching Coconut go outside for the first time is how I will always remember her. Cautious, curious and cool, she took her time. She stared at the sky for a while. She was a sponge, just absorbing all the sights, sounds and smells of her new environment.”

New experiences, new friends...

Once Coconut had taken her first tentative steps onto grass and given it a good sniff, you couldn't get her off it! She loved exploring all the natural enrichment items in her enclosure and delighted the staff with her playfulness.

“Our lasting impression of Coconut will be of her twirling logs with her paws and deliberately falling backwards in the grass, giddy with happiness, without a care in the world.” Jill Robinson, Animals Asia Founder and CEO said. 

We also watched with joy as a beautiful relationship blossomed between Coconut and her handsome neighbour Bärack. It began when Bärack - also a bit wobbly on his back legs - reached up to the window in his den to get a glimpse of his new neighbour.

A few days later, Bärack ambled over to say hi to Coconut who was cautious and unsure at first but then welcomed him by gently clucking.

Remembering our other fallen bears

Coconut’s passing gives us pause to remember the 31 bears from the Nanning farm who also passed since we took over their care and ended their lives as bile factories for good in 2014. Our teams worked tirelessly to bring them to their forever home and sanctuary. 

The sadness of their loss is tempered by the knowledge that we were able to spare them the cruel process of bile extraction and give them the care, dignity and respect they deserved all along.

We take comfort in knowing that although they didn’t get to experience the joys of fresh grass and wide open spaces as Coconut did, they were loved and treasured living more comfortable and happier lives made possible by the kindness of Animals Asia supporters all around the world.

To those 31 beautiful bears and our gorgeous girl Coconut, we will never forget you. And in your memory, we will continue our mission to end bear bile farming forever.

With your help, we will keep our promise to Coconut and the 31 bears who passed away before they had their time in the sun. Thank you for never giving up on these bears. 

Read more: 

Animals Asia brings 101 bears home in largest ever operation of its kind

101 bears home

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