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Miomojo Cub House: The tragic sign which shows this orphaned bear will always miss her mum

29 November 2018

Rescued as a cub, sun bear Layla still suckles her paw in a reminder of the close bond broken when she was poached from the wild.

Little sun bear Layla was rescued in 2014. Her mother had been killed so that she could be poached from the wild and sold as an exotic pet. Even after rescue, she weighed less than 14 kilogrammes.

Just as she should have been suckling her mother’s milk and learning about her forest home, Layla’s life was destroyed. And she will never fully get over it.

The effects of this childhood trauma can still be seen today as Layla – now an adult – suckles her paws. As a cub, this was a coping mechanism. Now, it’s just something Layla continues to do as an individual who will never stop missing her mum.

Animals Asia Bear Manager Sarah van Herpt said:

“Paw suckling is something we often see in bears rescued as cubs. It occurs because they are taken away from their mothers, and in response they direct the behaviour onto themselves.

“This behaviour was initially triggered by a trauma but has become hardwired in the brain. Layla is now at a point where the suckling will probably never disappear completely, but we also believe it no longer always represents stress. I see Layla suckling when she is content so really it has become a behavioural tick for her which reminds us all she’ll never stop loving her mum.”

Layla now lives in a community of four other sun bears in an outdoor enclosure filled with trees, swimming pools and climbing frames. She is able to express natural behaviours such as foraging and is given emotional support from her four bear friends – a situation made possibly by the generous support of Miomojo, a fashion company which currently sponsors all five bears.

While four-year-olds Goldie and Murphy are around the same age as Layla, their playmates Sassy and Annemarie are eight and nine, respectively, and are able to act as positive older female figures to the youngest bears.

Sarah said:

“We can never bring Layla’s mother back or undo the trauma she suffered as a cub, but we are dedicated to giving her the best life we possibly can at the sanctuary. Four years on from her rescue, Layla is a happy and contented little bear who loves playing with her friends and is very healthy.”

Typically, bears rescued as adults from prolonged captivity on bear bile farms express different forms of abnormal behaviour to cubs. Adults are most often seen repetitively pacing and head-swaying as a coping mechanism – a behaviour which tends to reduce as they become less stressed in sanctuary.

In contrast, suckling behaviour is almost always observed in those rescued as cubs. At Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre, moon bears Nora Jamjack and Sunshine both also suckle, as do Layla’s sun bear friends Murphy and Goldie.

The Miomojo Cub House is part-funded by Miomojo – a responsible fashion company from Italy making gorgeous fashion accessories that don’t harm animals or the environment. Their new Ethicool collection is available now.


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