Health checks for recently rescued bears reveal disease, pain and extreme cruelty

01 August 2019

In total 18 diseased, rotten and fractured teeth had to be removed while evidence of poaching was uncovered – but new lives start now!

Moon bears Lily, Phuong, Sweet Pea and Scooby were rescued in June having endured a lifetime of misery, first in circuses, then in a tourist resort.

The foursome are now safe at Animals Asia’s Vietnam sanctuary recuperating from their ordeal in the rescue centre’s bespoke quarantine area.

Joining them is moon bear Solo, rescued just a week earlier from a construction site where she had been stranded after her legal “owner” was arrested on suspected drug offences.

The five rescued moon bears still have a few weeks left of their 45-day quarantine period, but have been building their strength and received the first health care of their lives.

Sadly, the findings show extreme abuse, neglect, bile extraction and evidence that at least one bear was illegally poached from the wild.

Senior Veterinary Surgeon Shaun Thomson has kindly provided updates on each bears’ condition:



“Sadly, the health check revealed that Phuong has been suffering with severe dental disease for quite some time. She was missing some teeth and many of her remaining molars had to be extracted due to severe infection. These conditions would have caused her intense pain for months if not years. 

“She also has signs of arthritis in both of her elbows, her left elbow especially has markedly reduced range of motion, likely from spending such long periods caged.

elbow cannot move comfortably

“Phuong cannot see clearly and there is evidence of scarring to her corneas, likely due to severe ulcers of the corneas in the past. A cataract is also present in one of her eyes which will be impeding her vision. We’re hopeful that a visit from a specialist ophthalmologist be able to help Phuong regain full sight and return the full glow of the sunshine to her.

“For now, Phuong is in recovery and getting stronger each day. We will continue to monitor her mobility in case she needs additional pain relief and hopefully, unlike many of the bears here, she will be able to keep what teeth she has left.”


small Scooby 2

“When the lovely, friendly Scooby came in for his health check we found yet more evidence that he is much younger than his captors told the authorities.

“It appears that he is a young bear, far too young to be over 14 years old and therefore obtained before the law change. He is yet to grow into his adult body and despite having some calculus build up on his teeth, he has no real dental disease when compared with the other bears in his rescue group.

“It’s tragic that he appears to have been poached so young and so recently, but the positive aspect of that is that he has few health problems and he is going to love playing in the large outdoor spaces of the sanctuary and wrestling with the other bears.”


lily with scar

“The first thing you notice when seeing Lily is those lovely, deep eyes. But the second is the awful scar from the snare that entrapped her entire body when she was trapped in the wild.

“It wrapped around her abdomen in front of her hind legs. The agony that this must have caused would have been monumental and she holds this awful, thick scar to show the healing her tortured body had to go through.

“As with her companions, Lily required extensive dental work. Multiple extractions of incisors and molars were required due to deep infection. A lower canine tooth had been severely fractured and infected, so this too required extraction – a very invasive procedure, but vital to remove her pain.

“After the health check, she woke up smooth and content, had her dinner and was straight away enjoying the marshmallow treats that contain the medication she needs to help her body heal.”

Sweet Pea


“Since being rescued just over three weeks ago, little Sweet Pea has been having worrying episodes of nasal discharge and vomiting. We have been waiting to investigate these concerns and performed thorough a head to toe examination to try to get to the root of the problem.

“We found evidence of some bleeding in her retinas, at the back of her eyes, which indicates Sweet Pea is suffering from high blood pressure. She will be started on medication to treat this and we will perform a repeat check in a few months to ensure we prescribing an effective dose.

“We performed an examination of Sweet Pea’s airways which did not reveal lesions, but there was a lot of mucus discharge of which samples are currently being examined at the lab.

“Sweet Pea had a lot of rotten teeth and had to have seven teeth extracted. We hope she will feel much more comfortable without these agonising reminders of how she suffered. She is now on a diet of soft food to allow the extraction sites to heal over.

“We used a camera to look inside Sweet Pea’s stomach which revealed no signs of disease and the lining of her stomach appeared healthy. We did however, visualise a small object which should readily be passed without intervention, but we’ll continue to monitor her very closely and repeat the examination if vomiting continues.

“While we weren’t able to ascertain for certain the cause of Sweet Pea’s vomiting, we have been able to rule out certain possibilities and begin treatment for others.

“She is taking her medication well and eating her food without any problems and no further nasal discharge or vomiting has been observed.”


Solo HC 1

“When our sweet girl Solo came in for her first health check she was initially a little unsettled but soon relaxed and did really well during her anaesthetic.

“We found that one of her big canine teeth is fractured and will require further treatment. Removing canine teeth is very invasive but sadly all too often necessary in rescued bears. That said, we will seek advice from a dental specialist to see if Solo can have a root canal performed to save this tooth.

“We also found that Solo has some disease in her gall bladder with some gall stones observed on her ultrasound exam. This is highly likely to be a result of bile extraction and surgery will be required to remove her ravaged gall bladder once she is stronger.

“For now, Solo is on pain relief to ensure she is comfortable while awaiting dental and gall bladder surgery. Things will get better for this poor, exploited bear.”

Moon bears desperately need our help. They are one of the most playful, but also the most exploited bear on Earth and none of their suffering is necessary.

No bear should have to suffer endless bile extraction for traditional medicine or endure a lifetime of cruelty for a moment's entertainment on a circus stage. 

Stand up against cruelty to moon bears, whether for traditional medicine or the entertainment industry. Sign the pledge to join the global movement against cruelty to moon bears and join thousands of #MoonBearHeroes pushing for change.