Florence and Clara’s rescue anniversary: after one year at our sanctuary have their hearts healed?

12 May 2021

It was a year ago today that Animals Asia rushed to a city north of Hanoi, Vietnam to rescue two moon bears from a roadside restaurant.

When our rescue team arrived, they were shocked to find the grown bears living in tiny cages in the restaurant’s carpark, surrounded by piles of rubbish, noise and car fumes.

The two female bears were around 16 years old and had been in their cages since they were very young. As the restaurant was so close to the Vietnam-Laos border, it’s likely that the pair were smuggled into the country as cubs to be sold on the black market.

They were ‘Nowhere Bears’. Bears who live in the shadows, in small, cramped and unhygienic conditions, hidden from the world. Unnamed, unseen, unloved.

A change of heart

The bear’s owner explained to our team that although he bought the bears to extract and sell their bile for traditional medicine, he hadn’t done so for two years as the demand for bear bile had fallen and that he had begun to find the process cruel and had to turn away when the bears were having their bile extracted. This gives us hope that the tide is turning in Vietnam in the attitudes towards the practice of bear bile farming.

Healing Hearts

It was only as the rescue team arrived to save the bears that they realised it was International Nurses Day. They decided that in tribute to the millions of people who dedicate their lives to caring for others, to name the bears after pioneering nurses Florence Nightingale who was the founder of modern nursing and Clara Barton who founded the American Red Cross.

The road to recovery

When Florence and Clara arrived at our Vietnam sanctuary we gave them full health checks to assess their physical condition.

Both bears had arthritis and hypertension, which is often caused by the stress of living in cramped conditions for so many years. Florence had terribly itchy skin and had bald spots from scratching herself.

Our vet team wrote health plans for each bear and administered medication to ease their ailments, which was monitored closely over the following months as they eased into their new lives at the sanctuary.

Love is all you need…

Although Florence and Clara had spent their whole lives living within inches of each other, they hadn’t physically met before. We weren’t sure how they would react when they came face to face with each other for the first time.

At first, Clara was the more inquisitive of the two, wanting to play with Florence, but Florence was cautious and kept to herself for a while. The pair were integrated into a bear house with other bears at the sanctuary and the whole group got on well straightaway.

As the months have passed Florence and Clara have gained confidence and adapted to their new surroundings brilliantly. They have become more and more curious and playful. We were overjoyed a few months later to find them playing in the enclosure, wrestling and tumbling around like old friends!

Since then, the duo have made up for lost time and play-wrestle nearly every day. Their friendship has developed into a beautiful bond, they follow each other around and are always together. It is an absolute joy to watch them grow as individuals and as best friends.

They have also improved physically, with Florence’s once itchy and balding fur now thick, glossy and picture perfect. The best bit is that she has even stopped her anti-itch medication: after a bit of help from our bear care team, her body is finally healing itself.

Let’s bring them all home

Thanks to you, Florence and Clara are no longer Nowhere Bears. They are recognised, have an identity and are loved and cherished for the exceptional individuals they are. They have helped heal each other’s hearts while warming ours.

With your help, we gave Florence and Clara kindness in action. But there are hundreds of Nowhere Bears who still live in the hard to reach places of Vietnam. Will you join us in bringing the rest of these isolated and lonely bears home?

Read more:

Healing Hearts rescue story: BREAKING: Healing Hearts Rescue underway

Watch Florence and Clara and some other bears settling into life at our Vietnam bear sanctuary