Their happily ever after begins now - #ThreeBearsRescue

22 April 2020

In March Animals Asia was approached by the Nam Dinh Province Forest Protection Department (FPD) to urgently rescue four moon bears who were discovered on an illegal farm. However a small rise in coronavirus cases in Vietnam led to a country-wide lockdown that  delayed our chance to rescue these bears. Tragically, during this time one of the four bears on the farm died of unknown causes while the FPD was processing the case leading us to call upon the local FPD ranger’s station to take the remaining three bears into their custody to ensure their safety.

While waiting for the lockdown to be lifted the rescue team closely monitored the coronavirus situation and fortunately there were no reported COVID19 cases in Nam Dinh province leading to restrictions being loosened. Nam Dinh was classified as medium COVID19 risk, which meant that the rescue could be carried out with restrictions, including mandatory masks and a limit on the numbers of people in the rescue team. Other precautions included having the team’s temperatures taken and foreign staff needed to bring their passports to show they had not recently been overseas.

At the crack of dawn on Tuesday our team left the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre (VBRC) in Tam Dao and drove for three hours to meet the FPD Director in Nam Dinh city at around 8am. The FPD director sent officials to accompany the rescue team to the Giao Xuan Hai FPD ranger station which is roughly another 45km from Nam Dinh FPD in Nam Dinh city.

Our rescue team consisted of our Vietnam Director Tuan Bendixsen, Vet and Bear Team Director Heidi Quine, Senior Vet Surgeon Shaun Thomson, Vet Nurse Kat (Sarah) Donald, Bear Team Supervisor Dao Chau Tuan and Tran Thi Gai, Cao Manh Tien from our Vietnam PR team, and External Affairs Ung Toan The.

Bear Team Supervisor Tran Thi Gai feeds James with honey

Life had been no fairy tale for these three bears, and it was clear by their symptoms of stress when we arrived that they had suffered quite some trauma while captive on the illegal bile farm and possibly in their capture. On inspection they appeared to be quite young bears, leading us to believe that they were captured from the wild and possibly witnessed the death of their mother while cubs.

As there were three bears and they had clearly not lived the fairy tale lifestyle of their storybook counterparts, it was decided to give them meaningful names from fairy tales. The bear in the leftmost cage was named James after James and the Giant Peach who overcame cruelty to find friendship and security. The bear held in the middle cage was given the name Bân after Princess Ban from the Vietnamese fairy tale about the clumsy daughter of the King of heaven whose warmth of love and care extends to everyone on unexpectedly cold days. Last but not least in the rightmost cage was the calmest bear Alice, whose time in a nightmarish Wonderland was coming to an end.

It took some time to persuade the bears to enter our transport cages. Alice was enticed by some sweet honey offered on a long spoon, but for James and Bân, it was the desperate desire for a drink of cool, fresh water that finally brought them in. This could indicate that when they were on the farm their access to water was limited, which could explain why it was the key motivator in helping them choose to enter our transport cages.

Once they were safely stowed on our transport truck it was just over four hours drive before they arrived at their forever home at Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre, where they will begin a vital 45 day period of quarantine, and for the first time receive a properly balanced diet and enrichment to stimulate their minds after years behind the bars of a barren cage.

James is moved onto the truck

Most of us have been in quarantine, isolation and lockdown for several weeks now. It's not been pleasant, has it? Now imagine living this way for years while having an unnecessary and dangerous medical procedure forced on you. That's precisely what's happened to these poor bears. They have been robbed of so much of their lives.

Their grim story is over now and with your help we can give James, Bân and Alice the happily ever after they dearly deserve.

Please donate and help us change their lives forever. The only cure is kindness.