Five years after being rescued, sun bear Mr. Dave proves that the only cure is kindness

09 September 2021

It was September 2016 when staff at the Animals Asia bear rescue centre in Vietnam were alerted to the plight of a sun bear who was being kept illegally as an exotic pet. 

When our rescue team arrived where the bear lived, they found him in a pitiful state. 

For nine years, this tiny, beautiful bear had lived alone in a dark room in a rusty old cage. And although he’d been kept as a pet, he didn’t even have a name.

We immediately gave him back his identity and dignity and named him Kaffe, meaning ‘coffee’ in German, due to his beautiful coffee-coloured coat.

Today, he is a different bear. After a kind sponsor fell in love with him and became his Bear Guardian, he received his forever name: Mr. Dave.

This is his wonderful story.

Mr. Dave comes home

Once Mr. Dave was safely back at our sanctuary, our vet team assessed his health, as they do with all rescued bears. They found him to be in surprisingly good health, although a little on the skinny side. 

Unfortunately he was suffering with chronic tooth decay, probably due to being fed a poor, inadequate diet for so many years.

Seven of his teeth were beyond repair, so had to be removed which the vet team were confident would improve his quality of life straightaway.

Our bear care team began to give Mr. Dave soft, yummy treats like dragon fruit, marshmallows and honey, which he devoured with relish. 

We couldn’t imagine how it felt to experience these new tastes and textures for the very first time, but he seemed to love every bite!

A brave new world

Mr. Dave moved into his own den, the biggest space he’d known for almost a decade, with a bed, banana leaves and straw to roll around with, ropes and logs to play with and a wooden platform to climb.

These enrichment items and home comforts helped him adjust to his new surroundings and exercise his body and mind for the first time in years. 

His den was next to one shared by the other rescued sun bears, and he had the chance to see, sniff and interact with them through the metal slides separating their dens. All from a safe and comfortable distance.

Gaining confidence and trust

Once Mr. Dave was mentally and physically fit and well enough to venture outside and meet the other bears with whom he’d be sharing his home, the bear care team were with him every tentative step of the way.

Having likely never met another non-human animal before, let alone one of his kind, Mr. Dave was understandably nervous of meeting his new housemates. 

We introduced him to one bear at a time, all the while observing his every reaction and being ready to gently coax him back indoors if it got too much for him. 

Vietnam Bear and Vet Team Director Heidi Quine remembers these early days well; “Mr. Dave had such a lovely personality and so dearly wanted to make friends and interact with the other bears, but his confidence needed more time to develop.”

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to integrating bears. Each one has their own personality, quirks and needs, so it’s essential that each bear is given space to adjust in their own time. 

The Vietnam bear care team are some of the most experienced people in the world at this and before long, and more importantly when he was ready, Mr. Dave slowly began to interact with his fellow sun bears…

Let the fun times roll… literally!

Before long, Mr. Dave was happily rolling around with housemates David, Lamma, Nelson, Cubby Leo, Grier and Dorle.

Today, Mr. Dave is one of the most confident members of his house and can often be found dashing around, wrestling with David, climbing, splashing about in the pool and generally having as much fun as possible!

Senior Bear Team Manager Sarah van Herpt describes Mr. Dave as, “so inquisitive! He roams around, head furrowed in concentration as he searches for something new to destroy. He is a huge fan of digging holes, tearing apart the bamboo tree protectors, playing in the log piles and generally being a very boisterous little bear!”

But he’s incredibly tender too, and can often be found snuggling with and hugging his housemates. We never tire of watching him demonstrate his love for his friends, and for his new, fun-filled life. 

Read more:

RESCUE UPDATE: Rescued sun bear receives pain-relieving surgery after years in captivity

Rescued after years alone – sun bear is learning how to make friends