Moon bear Uno soaks up the sun for the first time in 18 years

29 January 2021

Following 18 years in a miserable cage, surrounded on all sides by walls, moon bear Uno is finally feeling the sun on his face and the breeze in his fur. Animals Asia rescued him from nearby a bear bile farming hotspot where it is suspected that there are over 140 bears still trapped on illegal bile farms.

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Uno’s rescue necessitated an anesthetic as it was not going to be possible to bring our transport cage through a narrow corridor into the back room, where Uno had lived since he was a cub, for a conscious transfer. The anesthetic gave our rescue team the opportunity to give Uno a brief on-site health check before loading him into our truck. The team noticed that Uno had a very bald bottom and rubbing marks on his forehead. More concerningly Uno was clearly very obese and his spine appeared to be curved, probably from all those years in such a small space without opportunities or encouragement to stretch and exercise at all.#UnoRescue - Uno in farm cage

Animals Asia’s Vietnam Director Tuan Bendixsen said:

“This was a really significant rescue as we’re making inroads into the last few bile farming hotspots. Our close collaboration with the provincial Forest Protection Departments is clearly working really well, and our community work is having a great impact as we’re now seeing more bear owners voluntarily handing over bears as happened in Uno’s case.”

When Uno arrived at our sanctuary in Tam Dao National Park he revealed himself to be a wonderfully gentle bear during his mandatory 45-day quarantine period, where our vets closely monitored him and our bear care team gave him lots of care and attention and began the process of building trust and muscle in this neglected bear. With enrichment items and treats such as leaf browse, puzzle feeders and fresh fruit and vegetables our team got to know Uno and he learnt that he was safe and cared for.

Once Uno’s quarantine period was complete he was moved to a den in one of our bear houses. This period of adjustment is vital for letting Uno know that he always has access to a safe space, as often bears who have been in a single cage for so many years can find access to a spacious and stimulating enclosure a little overwhelming at first.

During this time Uno was given a full health check by our vets in the bear hospital. This examination confirmed the concerns from the earlier brief health check and gave the vet team an opportunity to look at Uno’s gall bladder with an ultrasound, which revealed a thick wall, possibly indicating a history of painful bile extraction. A sample was taken for assessment to see whether his gall bladder is diseased in which case its removal may be necessary.

Soon after his health check Uno was introduced to the freedom to explore an enclosure. Like many bears, Uno was at first tentative, smelling the air and blinking at all the space in front of him while only sticking his head out of the den. However, when he managed to summon the courage to venture a little further out, it became clear that Uno knew this place was paradise compared with the cage in a back room he’d suffered in for so many years.

Vet and Bear Team Director Heidi Quine said:

“It’s so wonderful to see Uno, who’s lived through unimaginable boredom and restriction, begin to remember what it means to simply be a bear. Not an exotic pet, farm animal or a medicine factory, just a bear. Right from the first moment it was fairly obvious Uno had a gentle soul and now it’s a delight to see him shine.”

The moment that captured Uno’s story of overcoming adversity came when he sat back in the enclosure, sitting up with his eyes closed feeling the sun on his face. A moment of peace, made possible by your kindness and care. Uno will never be alone again, never just a number, but a bear with a name, and a whole lot of friends.

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Read more:

  1. Uno’s rescue October 2020 
  2. Two bears rescued soon after Uno, Storm and Torrent (now known as Starfire)
  3. See how we help improve the mobility and lives of elderly bears