#moonbearmonday: Buddhist-blessed bear rescue

06 August 2014

Buddhist monk blesses Nhan Ai - as media looks on

Moon bear Nhan Ai arrived at Animals Asia’s Vietnam sanctuary following a 1,600km journey from Dak Lak Province that started with a Buddhist blessing.

Handed over by 80-year-old Phan Thanh Dai, the bear had been kept for bile but, with attitudes changing in Vietnam, Mr Dai was keen that Nhan Ai should be free and contacted Animals Asia.  Mr Dai also asked a Buddhist monk to bless the bear and wish her good luck for her future freedom. 

The blessing also reflected Mr Dai’s remorse at having caged the bear who was rescued in lunar month of July.  July also includes the “ghost festival” which, in Vietnamese tradition, is viewed as the time for the “pardoning of condemned souls released from hell”.

Nhan Ai had been kept by the couple since she was a 5kg cub in 1999. She now weighs 150kg. 

Nhan Ai before rescue

A visual health check at the house showed that Nhan Ai was fit to travel, but some signs of prolonged stress were seen – worn down nails and hair on her hind foot from repetitive behaviour and frequent grinding of her teeth.

On arrival at Animals Asia’s bear rescue centre in Tam Dao, two hours outside Hanoi, after 3 days on the road, Nhan Ai is scheduled for a full health check and will complete a minimum 45 days in quarantine as part of her on-going rehabilitation.

Bear and Vet Team Director Vietnam Annemarie Weegenaar said:

“She has settled in well and is loving her food, especially her fruit but she eats all her vegetables too.  She was transferred from her transport cage on arrival to a quarantine cage and is being indulged by the staff with as many treats as we can. Nhan Ai is also a big fan of the banana leaves that we’ve been giving her to play and nest with. The range of food and the browse she is being given here must seem like a tremendous treat for her but they will be very much part of what we hope will be a long and happy life here in Tam Dao.”

Nhan Ai’s name was chosen by Vietnamese singer Thu Minh, who recently visited the Vietnam sanctuary. The name means “compassion”.

Thu Minh said:

“Humans need compassion towards wild animals like the bears, and need to stop using bear bile. There are alternatives available so there is no reason for bears to suffer all their lives in pain. And compassion is also what the bear will receive when she comes to Animals Asia and lives among the love of their staff.”

Animals Asia Vietnam Country Director Tuan Bendixsen paid tribute to all those who assisted in the rescue:

“This year, Nhan Ai is the 5th bear that Animals Asia has rescued in Vietnam and the second time that bear farmers have voluntarily transferred bears to our sanctuary.  We are delighted to receive and commit to take care of this bear for the rest of her life. We send sincere thanks to Dak Lak Forest Protection and to Mr Dai and his family, who not only handed over the bear but also assisted in the rescue.”

Animals Asia’s bear rescue team was made up of Tuan Bendixsen, Senior Vet Joost Philippa, External Affairs Officer Ung Toan The and Bear Worker Dao Chau Tuan.

Nhan Ai in her transport cage