Hugely complicated surgery saves bear’s life after decades of bile extraction

21 August 2019

Solo undergoes surgery to remove gall bladder

Weeks after rescue from a building site in Vietnam, vets have removed moon bear Solo’s gall bladder, left diseased by repeated bile extraction.

Animals Asia never turns away from a bear in danger, and so it was when we were informed about a moon bear abandoned on a construction site in Vietnam after her “owner” was arrested on alleged drug offences.

Rushing to her side, our rescue team found her alone in a cage, squeezed beside the builders’ latrine and surrounded by the chaos and fumes of construction.

Above the sound of cement mixers and pneumatic drills, rescuers were told that Solo had been kept as an exotic pet.

But once safely back at Animals Asia’s sanctuary, in-depth analysis revealed the awful truth – Solo had actually been abused as a source of medicinal bear bile.

Repeated bile extraction had left her gall bladder diseased and mutilated. It contained a large gall stone and had become adhered to her other internal organs.

Animals Asia Senior Veterinary Surgeon Shaun Thomson said:

“Solo’s gall bladder was so badly ravaged from repeated bile extraction over many years that it had to be removed to prevent serious illness spreading to the rest of her body.

“The surgery however, was hugely complicated as her gall bladder was essentially a mess. Normally gall bladders are very mobile and easily removed, but Solo’s had become adhered to her liver, diaphragm, stomach and other organs. This increased the risk of complications as large blood vessels can form in such adhesions.”

But thanks to Animals Asia’s experienced veterinary team, Solo’s surgery was a success, with her diseased and painful gall bladder being completely removed.


Shaun said:

“Due to the difficulty of Solo’s surgery, she is being very closely monitored in the sanctuary hospital, but so far she is doing really well.

“She is on medication to manage her pain and supplies of her favourite dried sweet potato will make her world a much better place. Once she is fully healed, she will really feel the benefit. She will finally be free from excruciating pain in her abdomen after years of agony.”

Solo has just finished her quarantine period at Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre. After recovering from surgery, she will be moved to an indoor den – the largest space she has known since being poached from the wild over a decade ago.

In time, Solo will be introduced to other bears and given access to a large outdoor enclosure.

Moon bear pool party (L to R: Thomas, Xin Xin, Tieu Long, Georges, Baruffa)

Animals Asia was the first charity to address the issue of bear bile farming in Vietnam having worked in the country since 1999.

The charity’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre welcomed its first residents in 2007 providing a vital alternative to bears in desperate need of rescue.

A decade after opening the Vietnam sanctuary’s doors, the organisation’s work culminated in 2017 when Animals Asia became the Vietnam government’s official partner to end bear bile farming in the country.

Animals Asia is now leading a monumental project which will see every bear rescued and every farm closed in Vietnam by 2022.

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

Bears like Solo should never have to suffer endless bile extraction for traditional medicine. But they have no voice, they need you to stand up for them.

Sign the pledge to join the global movement against cruelty to moon bears and join thousands of #MoonBearHeroes pushing for change.