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The way these rescued bears gently wrestle is just the sweetest

05 March 2018

Bears are famously powerful but rescued moon bears prove they can be gentle too – and that tender moments spent together can be incredibly rewarding.

While moon bears are known to be mostly solitary in the wild, hundreds of bears rescued from the bile industry in Vietnam and China by Animals Asia have benefited from close relationships with their peers.

On bile farms, the bears are kept in tiny cages and are completely unable to express any natural behaviours. They can spend decades in these deplorable conditions, never setting paw on grass and regularly suffering the agony of bile extraction for use in traditional medicine.

Once rescued, the bears undergo a long process of rehabilitation at Animals Asia’s sanctuaries during which their physical, mental and behavioural needs are addressed. They receive medical care and stimulation through a comprehensive behavioural management programme eventually providing them with the opportunity to behave as bears should, foraging for food in large outdoor enclosures and pursuing whatever interests them.

Rescued bears can spend up to 30 years at the sanctuaries and for most, close relationships with other bears becomes a key source of companionship and a linchpin of enriched lives.

Through thick and thin

At Animals Asia’s China Bear Rescue Centre, many moon bear couples have been noted among the hundreds of rescued bears on site.

Mimi and Tinsley for example, both suffer from significant mobility issues as a result of their cruel treatment on bile farms, yet seem to take solace in each other’s company.

The duo love to sleep in or near a nest which Tinsley made from dried leaves in her enclosure and the pair have even been seen sleeping one on top of the other in the nest during the colder months.

The sanctuary even has a dedicated enclosure for disabled bears who seem to benefit even more than most from meaningful relationships.

Animals Asia Bear Manager Molly Feldman said:

“Among the bears in this house are Sepp, Bluebelle, Wilfred and Billy. Sepp and Bluebelle are both blind but inseparable – they go everywhere together. Wilfred is also blind and his close friend Billy is missing a limb, but they’ve really found solace in each other and just love spending time together.

“Generally, all the boys in the disabled house are very playful, probably more so than most of the other houses that have more able-bodied bears.”

Yet while they do play a little rougher, able-bodied bears are also great believers in bonding.

Moon bears Holly and Kira have been best friends since meeting a few years ago and can be seen spending time together every day, whether gently wrestling, swimming, foraging or sleeping together.

Animals Asia Bear and Vet Team Director Nic Field said:

“It's so amazing to see the bears’ social skills develop at the sanctuary when they're known to be mostly solitary in the wild. We know from our experience of caring for hundreds of bears who have suffered greatly, that these relationships can be a key part of their recovery from cruelty and a cornerstone of happy, fulfilling lives.”

To date, Animals Asia has rescued more than 600 bears – mostly from the bile industry – in China and Vietnam. Today, 380 bears continue to live out their lives at Animals Asia’s sanctuaries.