Moon bears Mekong, Newtie and blind Mai grow in courage but still haven’t found their tribe

22 July 2019

Newtie and Mekong have each other while blind Mai is increasingly confident, but the trio are yet to find a community where they feel at home.

Moon bears Mekong, Newtie and Mai suffered over a decade of abuse. Trapped in barren cages on bear bile farms, they were regularly knocked unconscious and had their bodies punctured with needles which sucked out their bile for use in traditional medicine.

For Mai, the long-term chronic stress and malnutrition caused cataracts leaving her almost completely blind, while Newtie and Mekong continue to undergo treatment for dental disease. Both have had multiple diseased teeth extracted and a veterinary dental specialist is working with the sanctuary vet team to help save what teeth can be salvaged.

But since being rescued by Animals Asia in 2018, all three bears are living completely different lives.

Animals Asia Bear Manager Lauren Werrey said:

“These three are doing so well together in their new enclosure. They all took time to work up the courage but now even Mai is playing, foraging and exploring happily outside every day.

“Mekong and Newtie are just the best friends and will spend time each day playing with each other. We know from experience that these interactions and relationships with other bears can be hugely beneficial to bears recovering from cruelty.”

But for all their undoubted progress, Mekong, Mai and Newtie are yet to find their tribe – a community of bears in which they feel at home.

For now, they live in their own private section of an outdoor enclosure, enjoying each other’s company, becoming increasingly comfortable outside, and able to see communities of other bears which they may one day join.

Lauren said:

“They are living next to a group of 14 and we have seen some interactions between the groups, both positive and negative. Meeting new bears is particularly difficult for Mai as her blindness makes it difficult for a gradual introduction. We’ve observed her sniffing but also growling at other bears and will keep a close eye on her daily behaviour and changes over the next six months.

“Hopefully, in that time the signs will be right to introduce Mekong, Mai and Newtie to the big groups so they can all live together. We know this would give the bears new opportunities to make friends, and of course access to the whole enclosure including a large pool which would boost their welfare.”

Sadly, bears rescued from the bile industry often struggle to overcome the transition to a larger environment due to their extreme confinement over years and decades.

Animals Asia has rescued over 600 bears and aims to see every bear eventually able not only to adjust to a den, but to enjoy spacious, outdoor enclosure access too as part of stimulating communities.

Animals Asia is exploring medical options which could partially restore Mai’s sight and there are hopes a specialist veterinary eye doctor could be able to visit the sanctuary in the future.