Happy Lunar New Year! It’s the year of the rat at the Chengdu Rescue Centre and the bears in Vietnam are celebrating Tết!

24 January 2020

Excitement has been building at our sanctuaries in Vietnam and China for the Lunar New Year. The bear carers have been preparing some special surprises for the bears so they can share in the spirit of the season! 

Preparations for Lunar New Year at the Chengdu Rescue Centre

At the Chengdu Bear Rescue Centre in China the enclosures received a makeover for the Chinese New Year celebrations. Red is a traditionally lucky colour and red lanterns with images of rats were hung around the enclosure, because 2020 is the Chinese year of the rat. Some red peppers were also hung around the enclosure bear house for decoration and red couplets “福”, which are traditionally placed on doors for good fortune and happiness, were also posted on boxes for the bears to play with. Bodo was full of energy, however, despite being one of the most sociable bears, he didn't play with his friends and just indulged in dismantling the boxes. He clearly enjoyed foraging in the boxes for fruit.

Bodo at the Chengdu Rescue Centre

Vicki, the most active bear of the day, ran into the bear house, looking really excited. When she found a red pocket full of nuts on the tree, she touched it softly with her paws, smelling it for a second before carefully grabbing the pocket with her teeth and taking it to the ground to nibble away at. Variety of enrichment in bears’ enclosures is really important for ensuring that the bears’ keen minds are stimulated and their natural foraging behaviors are encouraged. 

Vicki at the Chengdu Rescue Centre

Over in Vietnam, Tết is the most important and popular holiday and festival and at the Animals Asia sanctuary in Tam Dao National Park the bears were treated with many traditional decorations and activities in their enclosures. Nuts and seeds and other tasty treats were wrapped in lá dong leaves to emulate bánh chưng, a traditional Vietnamese rice cake which is made from glutinous rice, mung beans and is very popular during Tết. As with Christmas, a tree is traditionally brought inside the house, however for Tết the traditional tree is a peach blossom. However peach blossom trees are toxic for moon bears so a fir tree was used instead. The bears’ favourite dried fruit was placed inside the lucky envelopes in place of money which is the usual gift given to children and elderly people.

Bear team manager Chien, Bazan and bánh chưng being prepared

Yogi, Phuong, Bazan and Little Jane all got into the festive spirit, but Jonathan who is missing his right front limb, likely due to a snare injury when he was captured for the bear bile industry, really made the most of the day. Jonathan made his way over to the tree after Yogi had stripped it of a couple of the dried fruit lucky envelopes and moved on. It didn’t take long for Jonathan to make short work of the bánh chưng wrapping to get to the treats inside.

Bazan wishes you a happy new year

Local Vietnamese media came to the sanctuary to cover the Tết for bears celebration and the Vietnamese staff had a lot of fun preparing bánh chưng for the bears before going home to prepare it for their families.  

It’s safe to say that the bears felt the good fortune of the season and with your continued support they’re in for a very happy new year.