New Year Rescue bears enjoy den life as they ready themselves for outside

27 March 2013

The six New Year Rescue bears have all made the successful switch to bear “dens” - the last step in their rehabilitation before they enjoy the freedom of going outside for the first time. 

The bears arrived on January 9th, 2013 at Animals Asia’s sanctuary in Chengdu, China from an illegal bear bile farm in Sichuan province. Since then, Animals Asia’s Bear and Vet Team have been working hard to aid their rehabilitation and prepare them for the open spaces of the sanctuary’s enclosures. 

On arrival the bears had been health checked so vets could gauge their strength and any immediate concerns. Due to bear bile extraction methods, all bears have had to undergo operations to have their gall bladders removed. In addition all bears were suffering severe dental problems due to years of bar biting. Further problems also included being severely underweight and muscle wastage and arthritis caused by years of confinement. 

Now, following a 45-day quarantine process and a further period of post-surgery “bed rest” in recovery cages, the bears have been allocated dens. Each den is adjacent to an open enclosure that will eventually be open to them. 

Buddha explores her new new homeAnimals Asia founder Jill Robinson explained: 

“The first step was out of their tiny, rusty farm cages that had constricted them for so many years. After their operations they were confined to our larger recovery cages that allowed them to stretch but also ensured they didn’t hurt themselves as they built their strength once more. 

“For the last couple of weeks, with their strength returning, we monitored them from a behavioural point of view. Working out which bears were suitable for which bear houses. It’s easy to think of the bears as being desperate for open spaces but each step is a major readjustment for them. 

“Now they’re in dens and the next step is going outside. Their nervousness in leaving their recovery cages was evident but the process went very well. A few initial nerves aside, knowing the bears are enjoying space to move around in and hard ground beneath their feet for the first in many years, is a wonderful feeling. Knowing what’s coming next makes it even more incredible.” 

Animals Asia Bear and Vet Team Director Nicola Field added: 

“Watching new bears make the transition from cage to dens is among the most poignant and memorable moments in their rehabilitation. Their journey is a long one from arrival at the sanctuary to eventually being on grass and this step is always very moving and very special. 

“The team comes into its own when we have new bears and Friday’s movements was no exception. It’s hard to put into words the enormous pride I feel working with this wonderful bunch of people. They diligently, compassionately and carefully give so much to ensure these bears learn to be bears, learn how to trust and to ensure they have all that they deserve.” 

In the coming days and weeks the bears will have time to settle in their new environment. They will get to know their new caretakers and become familiar with the routines and other bears in their new dens. During this time they will have the opportunity to stretch, climb and adjust to space. 

The next step to enclosures and integration will depend on their individual progress during this period.