Rescued from a bile farm - nine bears now out of quarantine and ready for new lives

21 August 2017

Before their rescue this summer - the #9Lives bears had been in bile farm cages for a decade. Bear Manager Sarah knows them best and shares their progress here.

The nine rescued bears arrived at Animals Asia’s sanctuary at the end of June and spent their first 45 days in quarantine where they rested, ate well and started their rehabilitation.

After so long in bile farm cages, it’s a huge physical and mental step to progress from small cages into a larger den space. On farms their muscles waste away due to no exercise and bad diet and bile extraction also contribute to poor health.

There are still around 1,000 bears in Vietnam suffering in this way.

Since their arrival, and completion of quarantine, the nine bears have been moved to the sanctuary’s “River House” where they’re currently in individual dens - the biggest space they’ll ever have known. Next up for these bears will be integration when they make their first friends. Then, when they’re ready, they’ll start to progress towards taking their first steps out into the sunshine.

Bear Manager Sarah van Herpt runs us through each bear’s progress:



“What a wonderful surprise Soul has given us. When we rescued Soul the top of her cage was so covered in cobwebs it was a clear she hadn’t stood for some time. But she has amazed us all - she is one of just two of the bears that have learned that the baskets are for sleeping in.

“She loves to climb up to the platforms or the baskets to rest. She has a little more trouble climbing down.”


Dieu (2)

“Dieu is the other bear that is a big basket-lover, however due to her size and the fact she did not often stand whilst in quarantine she is yet to progress to high baskets and platforms and spends her days eating browse in her specially lowered baskets.  We think Dieu, Soul and Xanadu will be well suited to facing their next steps together so the three will be integrated in the near future.

“We need to get these bears together before the weather cools. Once temperature drops the bears start preparing for winter by eating more - at that time they’re likely to be less friendly if they imagine another bear is a rival for food.”

Dieu (1)


Wolfie (3)

“Wolfie is slowly learning how his limbs work after they have been unused for so long. We spread their food around their den to encourage them to ‘forage’ and move around as much as possible. Wolfie may seem ungainly but he gets there in the end and loves to climb up to his platform to sleep.

“Wolfie also loves his ‘enrichment’ – different items placed in the bears’ dens to act as extra stimulation. Often the bears give up especially if they haven’t yet developed a taste for the sweet treat at the centre. Wolfie has more patience than most.

“Once his strength has fully returned, Wolfie is likely to join a larger established group that needs a big playful boy like him.”


“Big gangly boy Cloud is another one that is only just getting to grips with how his body works again and is only just showing some tentative climbing skills. He’s just had a health check which means he missed our photographer here but will be back in dens soon. Cloud also loves to play through the bars with Xanadu and, in time, we plan to add him to the planned group of Dieu, Soul and Xanadu.

Binh An

Binh An (2)

“Another big boy starting to work out what his body is capable of and the dens are set up to try and give the bears as much comfort as possible while allowing them to develop their strength. Plans are being made to integrate Binh An with Song Be and the pair will provide comfort for each other as they face future challenges including going outside for the first time.”

Binh An (3)



“He’s still looking underweight but Xanadu is getting there and he’ll grow stronger as he eats and exercises. All the bears are getting large amounts of food every day. Xanadu’s attempts to wrestle through the bars with best friend Cloud are an excellent sign. We hope these two will be friends for life.”

Song Be

Song Be (1)

“Song Be is the real foodie of the group. She always comes straight to the front when she sees one of the team, just in case they have a tasty treat for her. She hasn't learnt to climb or settle in the baskets yet, however she seems perfectly content just to relax in her den.”


Jane (1)

“Jane is the bear that has struggled the most to adjust. With the love, patience and care from her wonderful team of Vietnamese carers she is starting to come out of her shell. She particularly loves jam, and the photo of her eating here is such a breakthrough. She generally doesn't eat until the team has left the house, but yesterday she ate straight away when the food was given to her and while I was sitting with her she brought the banana forward and ate with me.

“She isn't a huge fan of the camera, and it was fantastic to see her show some of that personality and attitude I know she has by standing up and huffing at the camera once she’d had a sniff.

“In terms of her future friends - she’s another one that is likely to join the Dieu, Soul and Xanadu trio.”

Jane (2)

Chom Chom

“Chom Chom is currently back in a recovery cage after a small operation. Up until then he’s been another one of our boys still regaining their strength. Chom Chom is feistier than the other males though, especially where food is involved. Chom Chom is due to return to his den once he’s rested up and all healed.

“Like Wolfie, Chom Chom’s future looks set to be with one of our established bear communities - one that needs a big playful boy-bear at its centre. Chom Chom is going to have a ball.”