Sun bears bond after trafficking trauma

29 March 2015

Layla (left) and Sassy (right) playing with each other in their enclosure 10

Condemned to solitary childhoods by bear traffickers – now two sun bears have their first ever friends and they couldn’t be happier.

When the slides between their two dens opened, Layla rushed through to meet new pal Sassy – who looked like she couldn't quite believe that another bear was standing in front of her.

This shared moment marked the end of solitude for both youngsters and was celebrated with happy wrestling as an excited Layla jumped all over a very tolerant Sassy.

For Sassy, the trauma she faced as a cub has made it hard for her to form bonds with other bears, meaning – until now – an enclosure of her own.

Animals Asia Bear Manager Sarah Dempsey said:

“This has been a very emotional integration and it moved me to tears to see Sassy finally play and have the chance for positive social interaction for the first time with another sun bear.

“Life has been lonely for Sassy but I think she finally has the companion she needs in friendly, playful little Layla.

“For both girls this will mean greater wellbeing, increased stimulation and the chance to exhibit a wider range of behaviours. The thought of them not getting on – which can happen – was too awful to contemplate.”

Layla (left) and Sassy (right) playing with each other in their enclosure 11

Due to Sassy’s history of stress, the integration between the two was handled with the utmost care. Both bears have been living in adjacent dens and enclosures for the last eight months giving them plenty of time to become acquainted in a non-threatening environment.

Thankfully, since meeting, the pair have become the best of friends spending their time playing, wrestling and destroying the sanctuary furniture.

Sassy (left) and Layla (right) playing with each other in their enclosure 6

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

“We couldn’t be happier that these two are enjoying their time together – but it has given the horticulture team quite a bit of extra work. Sassy has taken great delight in ripping up all the wooden planks that poor ‘hort’ team had recently installed, while Layla sat underneath playing with the debris that was raining down from above.”

Animals Asia founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE said:

“We are all absolutely delighted for Sassy and Layla. It was by no means a certainty that these two would be able to live together – it is the culmination of years of hard work by sanctuary staff to see that the Sassy particularly could overcome the psychological trauma she suffered as a cub. The blossoming friendship between these beautiful two young bears is the fruit of that effort and a reminder that we should never give up on a single bear that needs our help.”

Layla (left) and Sassy (right) playing with each other in their enclosure 1