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Rescued from the bile industry - find out how Nelson's life is "enriched"

22 February 2016

What’s this? Is Nelson lording it over his sanctuary mates and having a tantrum - effectively throwing his toys out the pram?

Thankfully not - he’s only playing and this “enrichment” is all part of his day-to-day sanctuary life and his ongoing rehabilitation having arrived at Animals Asia’s Vietnam sanctuary back in 2011 suffering from the most awful toothache.

His teeth were fixed by our vets - but minds can take longer to heal and keeping them fresh and active is an ongoing process.

Thankfully, however, life is now one big game for Nelson so let’s see what we have here:

He appears to have amassed no less than three puzzle feeders. One swinging from the platform he is lying on and two others which will have been scattered around his enclosure.

They’re filled by his carers with tasty morsels that smell and taste so good they’re worth the effort to find a way to get them out. From jam to fermented tofu - this is where the good stuff is kept.

Beyond that there’s a branch - generically known as  “browse” by sanctuary staff and every day each bear receives around a kilo of this wondrous greenery. It’s a snack, it’s a toy, it’s an extra bit of padding for that comfy bear nest.

Then there’s a bit of old sacking. Quite often these too can have a snack hidden inside or yet more browse. These hidden treats encourage the bears to keep foraging but they’re also fun to throw around too.

Meanwhile on the right of this picture is a woodpile. Another great hiding place for food but also more natural treats can be found there - including delicious bugs. And when that’s all eaten - bears get to throw the wood, roll around on it or generally rearrange it as they see fit.

Then, of course, there’s the platform itself. Providing platforms for bears was a recent part of Animals Asia’s work with Hanoi Zoo to try and ensure better facilities for their captive animals. No one knows better than us how much bears love to climb (check out the bamboo tree protectors!). Hanoi Zoo found that once they followed our advice their bears showed a reduction in aggression.

Animals Asia Bear and Vet Team Director for Vietnam Annemarie Weegenaar said:

“Beyond our ‘semi natural’ enclosures we have a whole calendar of treats and toys for the bears to keep them physically and mentally active. It’s lovely to see Nelson modeling the full range here.”