No Bear Left Behind: Dream Mischa Tebs’ story

17 May 2022

It was December 2011 when Animals Asia’s rescue team arrived at a large bear bile farm near Ho Chi Minh City.

The dark, soulless, and claustrophobic room was filled with rows of barren cages holding 54 bears.

The team looked down at the pitiful faces peering up at them. But sadly, we weren’t there to rescue them all. 

The gentle art of bear rescue 

When the practice of bear bile farming was outlawed in Vietnam, it wasn’t made illegal to keep bears. Many farmers viewed their bears as family pets and were reluctant to give them up, so hundreds remained in their cages.

Rescuing bears involves careful, considerate and respectful relationship building with the farmers to encourage them to give up their bears. In this case, the farmer agreed to give 14 of his 54 bears over to Animals Asia’s care. 

Dream Mischa Tebs’ new beginning

The years she’d spent cooped up in a cage and suffering repeated bile extraction had left Dream Mischa Tebs in a bad way. Parts of her limbs were missing (this probably happened when she was trapped in the wild), and she had severe arthritis and high blood pressure. 

She had many psychological problems, too. At first she wasn’t interacting much with her environment, but we didn’t know whether she was choosing not to interact, or she didn’t know how to.

One step at a time

We created a specialised husbandry program for Dream Mischa Tebs to teach her how to use enrichment such as straw and hessian sacks (those who follow us on social media will know how much our rescued bears love hessian sacks!).

Dream Mischa Tebs was incredibly wobbly on her legs and could barely stand up, a very common issue for bears who’ve spent years in cages.

So our team embarked on a Cooperative Care physiotherapy program to build up the strength in her back legs by gently encouraging her to sit and stand for her favourite treats.

Sarah van Herpt, Senior Bear Team Manager said,

”When we came up with a multi-pronged approach, Dream Mischa Tebs began interacting with her environment and we started to see some cool new behaviours from her. And after one unsuccessful integration in her early years with us, she finally found a companion in Maple. I can’t describe how happy we were to see her moving around and enjoying life.”

The ultimate act of kindness

In late March 2022 Dream Mischa Tebs went off her food. A health check found that the many issues we’d managed through medication and physiotherapy had finally taken hold. We were heartbroken, but we knew that the ultimate act of kindness would be to end her suffering.

Goodbye, our beautiful, broken bear

Dream Mischa Tebs was surrounded by the many people who had cared for her and loved her as we let her go. As she drifted into an eternal sleep, we held her paws, we stroked her fur and kissed her face. She was as loved and respected and had as much dignity then as the moment we first laid eyes on her. Our gratitude to Deam Mischa Tebs' Bear Guardians Suzie Marsh and Richard Symonds for the dignity of her name and for their beautiful words at her end.

And this is what keeps us going. This is why we will not stop until every last bear like Dream Mischa Tebs gets their moment to finally be seen. To be recognised, respected and loved as a unique individual who is as deserving of kindness as anyone else in the world… right to the end.

Raise Your Paw

You gave Dream Mischa Tebs the freedom, dignity and care she deserved. Now, let’s give the hundreds of bears who remain on bile farms the same.

Be part of this momentous victory for animal welfare, Raise Your Paw for moon bears today!

If you’ve already raised your paw, THANK YOU! Please pass this on to someone who would like to help end one of the cruellest animal exploitation practices the world has ever seen. 

Read more:

Bears take part in their own rehabilitation
Animals Asia’s physiotherapy program a great success!