Thursday 20 September, 2012: Two small moon bear cubs, confiscated from smugglers in North Vietnam, were rescued by our Vietnam team and successfully transported home to our Moon Bear Rescue Centre at Tam Dao National Park.
Negotiating flood-damaged roads extended the journey home to 12 hours, with stops every two hours to feed and check on the cubs.
Now happily ensconced in their very own den at the rescue centre’s Cub House, these lucky cubs may be just two of many being spirited across borders to feed the bile farm trade in China.
Animal Asia’s Vietnam Director Tuan Bendixsen, Dr The, External Affairs and Bear worker Chien, made up the rescue team heading for Lai Chau to rescue the two cubs. Lai Chau is approximately 450km north west of Hanoi and is a frontier province sharing much of its border with China.
On 2 September 2012 the local police in Than Uyen District in Lai Chau Province spotted a motorbike in a remote village carrying two men with a cane basket. Suspicious, they stopped the bike and found the cubs in the basket. The men were arrested and told the police that they had bought the cubs for USD1,500 and were going to resell them to an unknown buyer from the bordering province of Lao Cai.
It is likely, owing to the close proximity of Lao Cai to China, that the cubs were on their way to a bear farm in China.
Ricky and Joey
Now named Ricky and Joey (originally nicknamed Lai Chau and Sin Ho, they weigh approximately 12kg and 9kg respectively, and are estimated to be around three to four months old. Their exact age is unknown, as they may be underweight due to being fed inappropriate food.
Lai Chau Forest Protection Department (FPD) contacted Animals Asia as soon as they were asked by the local police to take over the care of the cubs.
Tuan Bendixsen, Vietnam Director, Animals Asia commented: “The Lai Chau police and local authorities are to be congratulated for enforcing the law, and ensuring the welfare of these cubs. Because of the early intervention and proper care of the forest protection department, both cubs are doing very well and looking healthy.”
It took the rescue team almost 12 hours to get back to Tam Dao because of bad road conditions caused by recent flooding. Bear worker Chien looked after the cubs – feeding them four times a day and frequent stops were made because the roads were so bumpy.
The rescue team was stopped four times either by the police or local FPD, after reports by locals who saw the cubs on the road. This is an encouraging situation, with people taking action to protect wildlife that they think may be in danger.
On arrival at the rescue centre, the cubs were transferred from their original FPD cage into a small transport cage and taken directly to our Cub House and into a den specially prepared for them.
Vietnam bear and vet team director, Annemarie, reports:
“They’ll be kept inside for the first few weeks, but right now they seem to really enjoy the platform and other structures inside the den. They’re entering the feeding crates to drink their milk, though they haven’t yet shown interest in solid food, apart from some pumpkin. Their coats are not in particularly good condition, most likely due to poor nutrition, but with a few weeks of good milk, and fresh fruit and vegetables, this should improve rapidly.”