Arkte, the first sun bear rescued by Animals Asia in Vietnam, has passed away at the Vietnam sanctuary.
She was comforted in her final days by her best friend Lamma who – as if sensing her struggle – was extra close to her companion. Both had previously been rescued from Vietnam’s bear bile industry.
Arkte was rescued from Vietnam’s Nghe An province in 2008, near the border with Laos, where she was thought to have originated. She arrived with David, who she’d apparently been housed with in the past. He and Arkte stayed close until the end.
On January 7, 2016, Animals Asia’s veterinary and bear team made the difficult decision to euthanise Arkte, so as to prevent her from suffering when it was determined she had a nasal tumour.
Vietnam Bear and Vet Team Director Annemarie Weegenaar said:
“Arkte was a small but feisty bear who made it clear to new bear arrivals that they should keep their distance, growling loudly and occasionally chasing them around the trees. But when the time was right, she loved a good wrestle, and David and his wrestling buddy Nelson were happy to roll around with her.
“Her best pal Lamma often shared the same basket, and even in those last few days Lamma was right by her side, sensing that Arkte needed her support. It comforts me that up to the day Arkte came to the hospital, her days were filled with fun – whether breaking open a coconut, playing with a toy or friend or pulling bamboo tree protectors apart.
“Thank you to all in the team who looked after her.”
Vet Weng Yan Ng said:
“I first met Arkte when I visited the Vietnam sanctuary a month before starting as the resident vet. As I walked around, seeing the bears for the first time, my attention was drawn to a little sun bear with a slightly grumpy expression. While the others lazily played or slept contentedly in the warm sun, she was determinedly scratching at a log. She clearly enjoyed the freedom to pursue her natural interests and behaviours. Her carefree and independent nature immediately captivated me.
“The first health check did not confirm the presence of a tumour due to the limited diagnostics we had on hand. She was started on meds but with no signs of improvement and actually a decline in her health and welfare a second health check was scheduled. We had more diagnostics available, a tumour was confirmed and she was put to sleep.
“Although the progression of her disease was rapid, I take comfort in the years she had at the centre – along with the ability to express her natural behaviours and enjoy a comfortable life, where she had an abundance of food, toys and (human and bear) friends.”
Her carers in House 1, where Arkte lived, said:
“Arkte was a small and beautiful sun bear who looked cuter than anyone when she stood on her hind feet, holding her front paws in front of her like a rabbit. She would make your heart melt when she started moving or walking in that posture. This would often happen when she ‘detected’ the scent of treats in the distance. All you could say then was, ‘What a sweet girl!’
“Despite the pain and stress of her illness, we rarely saw her show it. She still played with her friends, enjoyed her food and sniffed at the fresh air. How resilient a bear she was…
“We know that David and Nelson – her partners in joyful wrestling battles – will miss her so badly. We know that Lamma – who loved to sleep next to Arkte, her big sister – will be grieving for her. We can’t change the past and the fact that we have lost her forever, but at least she won’t have to suffer anymore.
“We thank Arkte for her presence in our lives and for being a wonderful part of us. Each of us will keep her in our thoughts and in our hearts.”
Animals Asia founder and CEO Jill Robinson said:
“Just never-ending thanks and respect to a magnificent team who rescued Arkte all those years ago, and then gently released her this week when her time had come.
“Our beautiful Arkte was given the Greek name of the star constellation Ursa Major – the Great Bear. Her American sponsor Lincoln liked the idea that bears still caged on farms might see a reflection of Arkte’s happy life in the night sky, giving them hope that they too might one day be free.
“I like to think that Arkte’s spirit continues to shine on, as more bears look up in hope, nearer to the promise of freedom. Rest in peace Arkte, from your family who loves you.”
In Vietnam there remain over 1,200 bears being farmed for their bile for use in traditional medicine.