Join us as we take an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at what’s been happening at our China bear sanctuary this winter

15 April 2021

In this new series, we’re taking a behind-the-scenes look at our bear sanctuaries and animal welfare programmes. Meet the people who are the backbone of Animals Asia, find out what it takes to run our award-winning sanctuaries and welfare programmes, and meet some familiar and not-so-familiar furry faces!

We’re kicking off with our bear rescue centre in Chengdu where it’s been a cold, yet busy and productive year so far ...

A winter wonderland

As 2021 began, the staff were surprised to see the sanctuary under a blanket of snow - a rarity in Chengdu. But don’t worry, the bears were tucked up warm under mountains of dried banana leaves, straw and hessian sacks as they continued their winter slumber.

Meanwhile, our marvellous maintenance team were finishing up a job in the brown bear enclosure: the anchoring of the artificial cave to make it sturdy, solid and most importantly, bear-proof!

We’re now pleased to report that the bears have a lovely cave in which they can nap and play in, or (come the summer) sunbathe on, much as they would in the wild.


Resourceful bears

Despite the winter stripping the land of many of their grazing favourites such as grasses and flowers, bears like Holly know how to make the most of what they have. Here she is having a thoroughly great time with a pile of ol’ logs!

Others such as Sunshine (here on the left) and Chi (on the right) however, are more interested in cuddling up together and seeing the winter through by keeping warm and snug in their den...

Meanwhile, Aussie took to his favourite spot in the sanctuary to make a cosy nest. Every day after foraging, Aussie goes to this spot and sleeps the rest of the day away. This was his best friend Jasper’s favourite nap spot before he passed away in 2016. What could be more beautiful?

Wakey, wakey!

In March, the beautiful Ria woke up from her five-month hibernation and was itching to get outside and stretch her limbs! Senior Bear Team Manager Molly Feldman conducted and monitored Ria’s reintegration to the enclosure with the other bears to make sure it all went smoothly. And judging by the picture below, it all seems to have gone rather well!

Next to wake up is Bluebelle, who like many of us, just needs that little extra time in bed. Bluebelle has been asleep since September 2020 and we can’t fault her reluctance to wake up until it’s a bit warmer outside!

Akimo, forever in our hearts

As anyone who has ever loved an animal knows, it’s heartbreaking when they pass away. Although an inevitable part of working with rescue animals, especially at the China sanctuary where most of the bears are older, the team were deeply saddened by the death of the gorgeous Akimo on 2 March.

Akimo’s mobility had severely deteriorated, a common ailment linked to time on bile farms. She now rests peacefully in our bear remembrance garden, united with her old friends where our team can quietly reflect on the special time they had with her. Rest in Peace, sweet Akimo.

Up next: we go behind the scenes with our fabulous companion animal team to find out what they’ve been up to so far this year.

Read more:

China Bear Sanctuary

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

Peter Egan at Animals Asia's bear sanctuary in Chengdu, China