Goodbye our dearest Derek

31 May 2023

Today, it is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to our beautiful big boy, Derek.

A legendary story 

As one of over 100 bears Animals Asia started caring for on an ex-bile farm in Nanning in 2014, Derek was named by his bear guardian, Ricky Gervais. “Derek is a beautiful but very damaged bear,” said Ricky at the time. “After such a sad and traumatic existence on the farm I am thrilled to have adopted him.”

Derek was so damaged

Like many of the bears on the farm, Derek was not in a good way when we met him. Desperately malnourished, with poor vision, and a trademark paretic tongue that he could not keep in his mouth, Derek had already lived a life few of us could have imagined.

The power of love

But with time, a healthy diet, and mountains of love, Derek started his journey to recovery at Nanning. By 2016 he had already doubled in weight. He was given a pool that he could cool off in and a hammock to sleep on instead of the cement yard or metal cage bars. And he loved being hosed down with water! He would try to eat the water stream like a dog with his tongue just flopping all over the place. 

However, he still had many health problems to overcome. He had hypertension, mobility issues, and his vision deteriorated significantly. Despite several surgeries his eye health continued to decline, and with the associated pain from severe cataracts, we had to remove his right, and eventually his left eye as well.

Derek moves to sanctuary

Finally, in May 2021, Derek moved with 100 other bears at Nanning to their forever home at our China Bear Rescue Centre in Chengdu. At the sanctuary he went into our Special Care house (constructed for bears with mobility issues). To see him finally setting foot on soft grass after an entire life in cages and concrete was an absolute joy.

Derek meets his soul mate

Soon, Derek was introduced to an equally fragile, male bear named Bärack. It was as if they had finally found their soul mates. These two brave and stoic bears who had endured so much suffering for so many years had finally found their place in the sun, and someone to share their freedom with. The two would not stop playing to the point our Bear Team Managers had to separate them to just have a rest! This was a significant turning point for both of these bears, and an equally powerful moment for the team who were looking after them. To see them just drooling on each other, wrestling, sleeping together, tongues everywhere. It was bliss.

The beginning of the end

Sadly though, Derek’s mobility continued to decline over the winter. It was clear that we could not control his pain and we suspected that he was suffering from slipped spinal discs, on top of his severe heart disease and risk of renal disease. He couldn’t use his hind legs. Derek was letting us know that this was the end.

Surrounded by love until the very end

When the time came, he was surrounded by those who loved him and had cared for him until the very end. And the carers, who nurtured Derek back to health and were there for him as he got old, all held his paws as he slipped away from this world.

An iconic bear

Derek was a legendary bear to us all. To the world. He is up there with the Olivers and Jaspers for how his story resonated with everyone who saw a clip of him on social media, or got to meet him in Nanning or Chengdu, or through the wonderful storytelling of his Bear Guardian, Ricky Gervais.

He was laid to rest in our graveyard the following day and we reserved a space beside him for when the time comes for his best friend Bärack to join him. 

Sending love to Ricky Gervais

Our hearts go out to Ricky Gervais, who gave Derek the dignity of a name that suited him, to the entire bear and vet team who looked after him for nine long years and ensured he was cared for, and loved, until his last breath.

And to his best friend, Bärack, who will miss him desperately, like all of us.

Make a donation in memory of Derek, and help look after the hundreds of other bears we care for at our sanctuaries. 

Read more: 
The biggest bear move in history | Ricky Gervais adopts Derek