#MoonBearMonday: Survivor of Vietnam’s most brutal bear bile farm reminds us every life is worth fighting for

28 May 2018

Three years after being rescued as the sole survivor from a farm where 26 others died, moon bear Oscar is proof every life is precious.

In 2014, an Animals Asia report revealed appalling cruelty taking place on bile farms across the Vietnamese province of Quang Ninh.

The report and a resulting campaign ended in a decree from the prime minister that every bear in the province be rescued and sent to Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre.

But many of the farmers didn’t give up without a fight.

On the most notorious farm, 27 bears were documented to be in critical condition by Animals Asia’s report. Just six months later, all but one was dead.

Moon bear Oscar was the sole survivor and when rescuers got to him, they were shocked.

Painfully thin Song Sot is desperate for food

Oscar’s sparse coat of fur was covered in open sores. He was extremely thin and had two missing digits on his left front paw and another two missing on his left hind paw. His paws had deep, dry cracks from years of never feeling the soft touch of grass – just the hard, cold metal bars of a cage he was never meant to leave.

He was also struggling to fight off a respiratory infection that was exacerbated by his appalling living conditions, a terrible diet and having his bile forcibly extracted for use in traditional medicine.

Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear and Vet Team Director, Heidi Quine said:

“Despite all that he was suffering, Oscar never seemed to contemplate giving up. He had been through hell and as long as he was willing to fight, the whole team was determined to fight with him. His life was clearly so dear to him, he was so determined to survive and carry on living – he showed us all how precious a single life is.”

Three years on from his rescue, Oscar is unrecognisable from the sick, emaciated bear that barely escaped that deadly farm.

In his latest health check in April 2018, he was given a clean bill of health by Animals Asia vets.

Animals Asia Senior Veterinarian Mandala Hunter-Ishikawa said:

“Oscar still has plenty of scars from his time on the farm. He has some arthritis and a mild cataract which thankfully doesn’t obstruct his vision too much, but overall he’s doing better than could ever be expected from a bear who has suffered as much as he has.”

Today, Oscar lives in a community with 11 other bears, free to roam a large outdoor enclosure and play with his friends on the grass.

Oscar (formerly Song Sot) plays with Cinta, VBRC 2017

Heidi said:

“At the sanctuary, Oscar quietly carries on with his life, really. He enjoys sitting in the sun, rolling on the grass, splashing in the pool and finding soft spots to sleep in when he’s tired. When he’s in the mood he’ll play with friends like Michael or Long, or go off in search of something delicious to eat out in the enclosure if he’s hungry.

“He isn’t the biggest bear, or the cutest bear. He isn’t the fastest or the most playful, or the friendliest, or the biggest eater – he’s just Oscar, going about his day. And to us, that makes him incredibly special.”

To date, Animals Asia has rescued more than 600 bears – mostly from the bile industry – in Vietnam and China. Nearly 400 bears currently live at the charity’s sanctuaries.

Oscar (formerly Song Sot) hangs out at VBRC after operation