Our Spice Girls settle into sanctuary life and pass health checks with flying colours

11 August 2021

It’s been seven weeks since Animals Asia rescued the last performing bears at Hanoi Central Circus in Vietnam. 

As with all new arrivals at our rescue centres, the four ‘Spice Girls’ - Chilli (who recently received her forever name of Chilli-Bienchen from her new Bear Guardian), Saffron, Tiêu and Gừng - have been in quarantine. This allows the bears time and space to adjust to the changes in their environment and routine, and enables our bear and vet teams to assess their physical and psychological health.

Today, we’re delighted to share the news that all four bears have finished their quarantine period, are doing well and are ready for the start of their new lives. Let’s find out how they’ve been getting on…

Food, glorious food

It’s always a good sign when bears arrive at our sanctuaries if they have an appetite so we were pleased that all four bears ate most of the food we offered them. 

Chilli-Bienchen particularly enjoyed her dog food - a staple in our rescued bears’ diets as it is packed with protein and vitamins - and Saffron and Gừng ate everything we gave them apart from tomatoes! 

During the first few days, Tiêu was the most timid of the four. She was cautious when we tried to feed her honey on the long spoon but as always, our bear carers were patient and after some gentle words of encouragement, Tiêu slowly started to accept all the food we offered her.

Getting active

An important part of our rescued bears’ integration into sanctuary life is getting their bodies moving. After years living in cages or being forced to perform unnatural acts, their bodies are often weak and damaged and need building up to become strong and agile again. 

We give them ‘enrichment items’ such as straw brooms, banana leaves (also known as ‘browse’) and hessian sacks to play with - or rather, destroy! We were delighted that our four young bears, who have probably never had such items to play with, really enjoyed chomping, tearing and ripping their way through everything we gave them!

They also enjoyed the showers that are a big part of sanctuary life. Tiêu loved her showers so much she started to lie down on her back to get the full effect!

Help these young ex-circus performing bears recover from their traumatic pasts.

The Spice Girls get their first health checks

Each bear at our sanctuaries has their own individual care plan which is based on their physical and emotional needs and abilities. The best way to understand their needs is to find out what’s going on inside by giving them a thorough health check. 

When the Spice Girls had their health checks they were understandably nervous, this probably being the first time they’d been in a hospital environment. Our vets estimate them to be around two years old so they would have been very small when they were taken away from their mothers to perform in the circus. 

But as usual, our amazing bear carers soothed and settled the bears’ nerves and distracted them by giving tasty treats such as honey and yoghurt, which worked, well, a treat! 

Shaun Thomson, the Vietnam sanctuary’s Senior Veterinary Surgeon explained what he and his team found: 

“The bears were in good general health, though naturally there were a few issues that we expected after what the bears had lived through previously. Gừng had a fractured canine which our vet team repaired and Chilli-Bienchen had a few issues with her eyes which we’re getting Dr. Claudia Hartley, veterinary ophthalmologist, to have a closer look at.”

“Tiêu had a missing nail on her right paw and we discovered her knees made “popping” sounds when we extended them, but couldn’t see anything of concern on the x-ray. It’s not uncommon for growing animals to have loose ligaments which might be causing the popping, but we’ll monitor her movements over the coming weeks and months to be sure.” 

“All Tiêu’s canines had bar-biting marks which indicates that she chewed on her cage bars while at the circus, a normal reaction to an unnatural situation. She was also missing a small part of bone in her nose which could be either due to trauma or simply the way she has grown.”  

The next step to freedom

Now our Spice Girls have completed their quarantine and had their health checks, they’re ready to move into their homes! All our bears live in small communities, or ‘houses’, where they share a den with a few others and a large enclosure with up to twenty or more other rescued bears. 

The road to recovery is a gentle, slow-paced one, which is entirely driven by the bears’ reactions to each stage. Soon, our Spice Girls will all be together again in their grassy enclosure, enjoying all the riches and treats that all our other rescued bears enjoy every day. 

They no longer have to perform or wear a muzzle. They will receive all the love, care and attention they deserve and have been denied for the tender years they should have been with their mums. 

Thanks to you, our Spice Girls have a second chance at happiness and we can’t wait to see how they grow and thrive in the years to come.

Read more:

BREAKING: Animals Asia’s Spice of Life rescue brings four bears from circus to sanctuary