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Remembering Rocky: the bear we never really knew, but know we’ll never forget

10 August 2018

We hoped to give Rocky a new life, instead all we could do was give a dying bear the only hours of love she’d ever known.

No rescue is ever a certainty. We commit with hope as much as expectation and when we got word of a bear in the far north of Vietnam who needed our help, we didn’t hesitate.

It was August 2017 and the bear was Rocky. She had been kept as an exotic pet for 12 years. The reality of her life was a small metal cage. And that was all.

She never foraged in the forest, slept on leaves or interacted with her own species. She never really lived.

When the Animals Asia rescue team arrived in Vietnam’s mountainous and remote Lai Chau province on the border with China, they were immediately worried for Rocky.

She was too thin, too inactive, too indifferent. She appeared to have no strength left, but more worryingly still, she seemed to have no will to go on.

As the rescue truck wove down landslide stricken mountain roads, the team did what they could to give Rocky some of the kindness she’d never known.

She was given some of the healthy food her species eats in the wild – bananas, watermelon, carrots – and fresh banana leaves were passed to her.


A post shared by Animals Asia (@animalsasia) on Aug 8, 2017 at 7:57pm PDT

For the first time since she was stolen from the wild, Rocky could do what every bear takes for granted. She could take a fresh leaf of banana and create a soft, natural bed to lie on. The simplest pleasure which her instincts had not forgotten even after 12 years of metal bars.

Once back at the sanctuary, the team’s worst fears were confirmed – Rocky was suffering from end-stage liver cancer. She had no hope of survival.

Instead of the new life we had hoped for Rocky, the medical prognosis revealed there would be only pain and physical decline.

Ultrasound shows two tumours of Rocky

We couldn’t save Rocky, but we could give her something special. In the 72 hours she spent with us, she was loved. Her needs came first, and the hours were filled with simple moments of kindness passed between species.

Instead of dying alone in her 12-year-old iron coffin, Rocky passed away peacefully, without pain, surrounded by people who loved and respected her in a sanctuary dedicated to the welfare of bears like her.

Animals Asia Founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE said:

“Rocky must have thought that no one would help her and that life would never be anything other than pain and isolation. But in 72 hours, we were able to give her more comfort, kindness and respite than she had ever known.

“Just like the hundreds of other bears held on farms right now, she thought there was no hope – that she had been forgotten. But while we and our supporters are here, there is hope. We won’t give up on a single bear, and we’ll never forget Rocky.” 


A post shared by Animals Asia (@animalsasia) on Aug 10, 2017 at 7:30pm PDT