#MoonBearMonday: Two blind bears find all the love they’ll ever need

18 June 2018

Moon bears Mityan and Bill were caged alone on Chinese bile farms where both lost their sight – but in sanctuary they have found happiness, together.

Rescued moon bears Mityan and Bill have a shared history. Both spent up to a decade caged on Chinese bile farms suffering regular, painful bile extraction.

Mityan’s body was mutilated. A permanent passage was cut from his gall bladder to his abdomen from which his bile dripped – to be collected and sold for use in traditional medicine.

Tragically both bears are blind due to retinal atrophy – a vital part of their eyes has literally wasted away. Ophthalmologists and vets agree poor nutrition and chronic inflammation as a result of bile extraction were likely factors.

But Mityan and Bill are actually two of the lucky ones. They have been rescued from bile farms and have spent more than a decade in the peace of Animals Asia’s China Bear Rescue Centre – the only sanctuary for bears in the entire country.

Bill and Mityan

At least 10,000 other bears are not so lucky and continue to be held on industrial scale bile farms across the country where their bile is extracted for traditional medicine.

Animals Asia’s China Bear and Vet Team Director Nic Field said:

“Bill and Mityan live happily in a community with 5 other blind bears – and all of them live relatively active lives. They know each other well by scent, sound and touch and are completely relaxed with each other.

“They are among some of the most playful bears in their group as well as the sanctuary and enjoy spending time together, whether gently wrestling, playing or just sleeping and relaxing.

“They seem to take great comfort from each other’s company and it is really quite remarkable how well these blind bears adapt to their environment. They have each suffered harrowing experiences alone for many years, so to see them find happiness and solace in each other feels like such a just reward for them.”

Serious eye problems are tragically fairly common among ex-bile farm bears. While a total of 10 bears are completely blind at Animals Asia’s China sanctuary sanctuary, 60% of the 80 bears on site live with some level of ocular disease which requires ongoing specialist attention.

The range of eye problems runs from retinal detachment and lens luxation, which both result in blindness, to cataracts, lesions and ulcers, which can cause pain and severe loss of vision.

Animals Asia’s Founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE said:

“While the age of the bears at the sanctuary certainly has a part to play in the very high instances we’re seeing of ocular disease, I believe the primary cause is the extreme conditions the bears have endured on bile farms.

“No animal is capable of enduring such atrocious treatment without serious repercussions and even bears – so strong and stoic – are no exception. Their bodies have been subjected to the most abominable torture and no part of them is unaffected by what is done to them on farms.

“Fortunately, we have found that blindness – when managed correctly – doesn’t have to mean a drop in welfare or quality of life. The blind bears at our sanctuary remain active, playful and happy and are much loved members of the sanctuary community.”