Rescued moon bear tragically passes away just as cruelty-free life was beginning

04 January 2018

Long-suffering bear Bao Lam was laid to rest under a crescent moon by her carers after sudden death from respiratory failure.

Just 16 months after her rescue from an entertainment resort in Vietnam, moon bear Bao Lam was discovered to have 20 litres of fluid in her chest. 

The stoic bear had hidden her illness well but recent coughing fits had convinced her carers that all was not well.

New machinery allowed vets to x-ray Bao Lam’s chest cavity for the first time but the shocking results revealed near complete deformity of the respiratory system within Bao Lam’s chest and shortly after the truth was revealed, Bao Lam suffered respiratory arrest.

Bao Lam smiling

Animals Asia Resident Veterinary Surgeon, Josephine Clapham said:

“During her first few health checks she was diagnosed with and treated for the dental disease and hypertension that we see so regularly in these bears, but there was no suggestion of the significant lung disease and respiratory failure we discovered late last week.

“Once respiratory arrest began, we attempted to resuscitate Bao Lam and removed some of the abnormal fluid from her chest. But with over 20 litres of fluid and almost no normal lung tissue, resuscitation was impossible.

“Now that we know the true extent of the damage to Bao Lam’s respiratory system it is quite unbelievable that she could breathe at all, let alone forage outside. I have read about the stoicism of bears but to see it first-hand has truly astounded me.”

Vets are still waiting for test results to reveal the cause of the severe abnormalities in Bao Lam’s lungs and chest, but early indications suggest cancer or a severe infection.

Before her rescue in 2016, Bao Lam had been caged for a decade in an entertainment complex in Central Vietnam.

Bao Lam in cage as we found her

She was one of 11 bears bought by the Dambri Resort, which had planned to open a zoo and a circus featuring one of the oldest and cruellest forms of entertainment – dancing bears.

But when the plans were abandoned, so were the bears, to a forgotten corner of the lush resort where they were caged in horrifying conditions.

Bao Lam was found curled up in a corner of a dingy shed, plagued with arthritis in her legs, cataracts in both eyes, rotten teeth that caused her constant pain, and signs of chronic high blood pressure. She was the only survivor.

Despite her tragic past and sudden death, Bao Lam enjoyed 16 months of love and care at Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre where she was free to forage outdoors and play with other bears for the first time in her life.

Animals Asia Founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE said:

“Saying goodbye, we must be thankful for Bao Lam’s short period of happiness that so many other bears will never, ever see. We were able to give her sixteen months with a full tummy, 69 weeks of happiness and peace, and 486 days of love.”

Bao Lam simply being a bear (14 Oct 2017 )

Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear and Vet Team Director, Heidi Quine said:

“Bao Lam represents everything we fight for – for hope, for life, for a spirit that never gives up and a spirit that embraces forgiveness and joy. I will miss her terribly.”

Since 1998, Animals Asia has rescued more than 600 bears mostly from farms where their bile is extracted for use in traditional medicine.

More than 370 rescued bears are living out their days at Animals Asia sanctuaries in Vietnam and China where they receive everything they were denied in captivity – a balanced and nutritious diet, medical treatment and a large semi-wild outdoor space to explore.

In 2017, the charity signed a historic Memorandum of Understanding with the Vietnamese government in which it agreed to rescue the estimated 1,000 bears believed to be still living on bile farms in the country by 2022. 

Bao Lam sleeping contently