Raymond, a bear who lived in peace 15.09.11 - 15.01.20

15 February 2020

On Wednesday 15 February, our vet team at the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre made the difficult decision to end the suffering of our beloved bear friend Raymond. Raymond had been living at the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre since he was rescued on 15 September 2011 from a bile farm in Nam Dinh province, south of Hanoi along with two other bears, Yulgilbar and Caz.

When Raymond was rescued he had an obvious scar on his back, which looked like it must have been a result of a large cut. He also had some hair missing from the middle of his back. Over the eight and a bit years Raymond lived at the sanctuary he became a firm favourite with the bear care team. He was always right at the top of the pre-integration 'friendly' lists, for his good-natured willingness to play, and his keen ability to know when to give a bear some space. 

V090 Raymond and V123 Humphrey playing

Heidi Quine, Bear & Vet Team Director at the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre, said:

“Raymond was adored at the sanctuary, absolutely adored. A small male bear with a shaggy halo of a ruff, Raymond had an honest gentleness about him and seemed to radiate goodwill.

“Over some months as his mobility started to wane, our team spent hours discussing how we could do right by not only Raymond’s body but his mind. This week we gathered in front of his den to observe as he struggled to maneuver out from his bear basket to greet us. Although Raymond seemed content enough to crunch on a golden apple which had been rolled toward him, there was something in this simple act which was heartbreaking. His spirit was still there, enthusiastic about the day (and food!) as ever. Tragically, it was his body which could no longer do what he asked of it. We willed his back legs to cooperate, to take a step, but we knew it was unfair to ask him to go on like this.”

Raymond was brought to the bear hospital on Tuesday evening, in advance of a health check on Wednesday morning. That evening he was spoiled by the team who gave him all kinds of sweet treats and banana leaves to nibble and nest with. The next morning Raymond was anaesthetised before being brought into the radiology room for an examination and x-rays. Upon close inspection the veterinary team could see that even in just a short period of time Raymond had wounds on his hind feet from dragging them along and was becoming unable to keep himself clean which could have quickly led to severe irritation. 

Raymond surrounded by those that loved him.

Resident Veterinary Surgeon Kate Shipton said:

“A few months back Raymond was found to have some spinal concerns and became very weak and wobbly in his hind limbs. He was started on treatment for this and spent a period of time on den rest. Although he made a great deal of improvement his legs were still not functioning as they had previously, however, given he is so in love with his friends and that he was now strong enough he was allowed to rejoin his group. Raymond was happy out in the enclosure and his condition remained stable for a time.

“Last weekend Raymond was seen to have deteriorated and unfortunately to a much worse state than his initial assessment. He could now not use his hind limbs at all and was only able to shuffle along on his back end. As sad as it has been to watch him in this way, and to see him feeling a little frustrated, Raymond was still happy in himself and loving his food as always. After many difficult discussions it was decided that his welfare would very quickly become compromised, his suffering would be inevitable and to protect his safety he would never be able to be out playing with his friends again. Nobody in the team wanted for Raymond to suffer and so we made the heartbreaking decision to say goodbye. He went out with the dignity he so deserved and a belly full of all the delicious sweet treats you can imagine. RIP beautiful boy.”

Holding Raymond's paw.

The team at the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre were all keen to share Raymond’s story so that his legacy would help other bears still trapped on bile farms around the world. As one of the most gentle bears at the sanctuary the whole team thought that he would love to see his kindness put into action in this way. 

Senior Bear Team Manager Sarah added

“Raymond was an odd little bear, one of our tanks. With cauliflower ears from exuberant play, a pointy muzzle and teeny tiny legs he was always a sight to behold. However, under the slightly odd-looking exterior belied a heart of absolute gold. 

“Heaven has certainly gained an angel today in Raymond, and I hope he gets many more peanut butter, jam, honey and condensed milk sandwiches. Rest in peace my friend, you will be so very missed.”

Bear care team at Raymond's Graveside

The team at house one and two observed that Raymond’s best friends like Milagro, Parly, Arthur, and many others will miss their companion so very much. And the whole team will miss seeing the epic wrestling sessions where Raymond was always an enthusiastic player.

Bear Team Supervisor Tuan paid this tribute:

Raymond was a friendly bear who owned such a powerful and positive spirit that you rarely see in the others. He never said no to any playing invitation, and more than that, he was always inclined to make friends with everyone, even with the most difficult bears. They all ‘succumbed’ to his charm and goodwill. After all, may you go with peace, and have a lot of friends to play with over there. We will all miss you and remember you as the one and only, Raymond.

Bear Team Manager Chien wrote this to his departed friend:

“Dear Raymond,  you are a gentle and friendly bear. How precious you have been since you came to us, a family of Bears. We thought that this place could keep you forever with infinite love for you. Wherever you are, we always wish you peace and happiness. Goodbye Raymond.”

V090 Raymond

It is always heart-breaking when a bear passes at the sanctuary, but everyone pulls together and supports each other because there are 182 other bears at the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre who need love, care and rehabilitation. After this moment of grief, when all of the daily activity of the centre has resumed, Raymond will never be forgotten.

Animals Asia’s Founder and CEO Jill Robinson said:

“Like a very large dog, Raymond's spirit and big personality was willing, but his mobility was weak, and he was given a blessed release by his loving family before he really came to terms with the fact that his time had come.  To the end he was happily enjoying his days - eating tummy loads of extra treats and playing with friends and with hessian sacks, simply being a normal bear… Rest in peace Raymond, from your family who love you.”

You may remember Raymond from our Gifts for Bears appeal this Christmas. Thank you to everyone who so generously made Raymond’s last weeks extra special, and everyone who has supported us over the years who have brought bears like Raymond joy, dignity and space for natural behaviours and an enriched life. Animals Asia would also like to pay a special tribute to the teams at our rescue centres in Vietnam and China who go above and beyond in the level of care, attention and kindness they put into action every day for every bear. Every bear is unique and special and our hard-working teams make sure that they are treated with respect and love, as the individuals they are, from their first day with us, right up until their very last moments.

The final word came from Heidi Quine, Bear & Vet Team Director at the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre:

“I am thankful that we were able to give Raymond the dignity of a peaceful death while he continued to experience some joy in his life. I am thankful that his last hours were spent as a happy bear, with his coconut and an indulgent number of treats. Most of all, I am thankful that because of you, we were able to give him just shy of eight and a half years of bliss.”

Flowers for Raymond

 The following is the poem “Spirit of Hope” which was read by the graveside, as it is at each and every one of our bears’ funerals.


We stand before you, as your presence has now past,

To read these verses, which we hope will be the last.

You’ve left this world no longer a number, a letter or bear just the same,

For you will always be remembered as a bear with a name.

You are Raymond.


We learnt your personality and you are alike no other bear,

You are unique and precious with qualities so rare.

You have touched our lives in a very special way,

And it disheartens us immensely that no longer you can stay.


It’s not right, not just and certainly unfair,

But you did find a new life where there was infinite care.

You have not left our world in despair or vain,

For your soul with us will forever remain.


Please look upon the others and give them promise of hope soon,

And tell them be patient and proudly wear the moon.

Give them strength and love every single day,

For the end to their struggle is no longer far away.

Farewell dear Raymond you will forever be in our hearts,

As our thoughts of you will never ever part.


Thank you so much for the memories, and may you now rest in a peaceful

and happy world.