From a nameless victim to a treasured friend, moon bear Precious is living up to her name

16 January 2019

First shots of moon bear Precious after rescue show she is relaxed, confident and more comfortable than ever before.

For 17 long, lonely years, she was the bear with no name. Trapped in isolation on a bear bile farm in Vietnam, she suffered repeated bile extraction to make money for her owners.

But this lifetime of agony ended when an Animals Asia rescue team broke open the cage in October last year.

From that moment on she was no longer a nameless victim and the thousands of people around the world who funded the rescue, gave her the most beautiful name: Precious.

A few months on from her rescue and Precious’s priceless personality is emerging as she expresses natural behaviours long denied her in that metal cage.

Animals Asia Bear Manager Sarah van Herpt said:

“Precious is revealing herself to be a huge personality. She loves to build nests in her den by taking all the straw we provide for her and piling it up in a corner where she can tuck herself in for a cosy sleep.”

Nest building is just one natural behaviour denied to bears on bile farms and it is heartening to see Precious hasn’t lost this natural instinct.

Foraging is another huge part of bears’ lives in the wild and an activity which can be replicated in dens, even before bears are ready to explore large outdoor enclosures.

Sarah said:

“Precious is enjoying the healthy diet we provide her and just loves bananas. We got her some banana flower which was a real treat providing novelty, stimulation and a tasty snack.

“So far Precious has revealed herself to be a very mellow bear, and while she’s very interested in her next door neighbour LeBon, in general she is more curious about her carers than the other bears. She loves to sit near her carers and will lie on her back and tell you how her day is going! When she first arrived, she seemed very traumatised, but now it feels as though a strong bond of trust has been established very quickly and Precious is much more comfortable.”

Sanctuary staff are delighted with Precious’ calm confidence and are actively looking for existing communities of bears in the sanctuary which could be a good fit for her. In time she will meet other bears and join them in the sanctuary’s large outdoor enclosures.

Moon bears such as Precious are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN, and categorised as endangered by CITES. More than 10,000 are held on bear bile farms in China, while the latest figures estimate around 800 are also trapped in cages as part of the industry in Vietnam.

Animals Asia began to take on the issue of bear bile farming in Vietnam in 1999, opening its Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre (VBRC), the first sanctuary devoted to bears in that country, in 2008.

In 2017, the government signed a landmark partnership agreement with Animals Asia that will see every farm closed and the remaining approximately 800 bears sent to sanctuaries by 2022 as the country works to eradicate the cruel trade.

Having exposed and opposed bear bile farming since its founding in 1998, Animals Asia has rescued over 600 bears in Vietnam and China. Today, nearly 200 bears continue to live peaceful lives at Animals Asia’s VBRC, while a further 190 are cared for by the nonprofit organisation in China.