Traumatised bear Sky is lowering her guard but road to recovery will be long

26 October 2018

Two weeks on from her rescue from a bear bile farm in the far north of Vietnam, moon bear Sky has moved to a large indoor den to continue trust-building exercises with her carers.

Her new den is full of enrichment items and climbing structures to help Sky exercise and rebuild her strength after at least 14 years trapped in an empty cage.

Animals Asia Bear Manager Sarah van Herpt said:

“Sky has made some good progress in the last week, and the move to dens has been good for her, but she remains a very troubled bear with a lot of issues to overcome.”

Unfortunately, Sky remains very scared and hasn’t yet shown much interest in her new surroundings.

Moon bear Sky looks out the window of her den

Sarah said:

“Very small steps have great meaning for Sky right now. We are working everyday on building her trust, and small improvements, such as the first time she investigated her browse or sniffed a ball covered in jam, were hugely positive developments.

“She is starting to relax and explore her dens, but it is a much slower process than with other bears. I have already seen her lying on her back with one leg up in the air which is a very relaxed pose for a bear to adopt and is a sign that she is beginning to let her guard down.”

Sky is still in her 45-day quarantine period and while she remains timid, human access to her den area is being restricted to help reduce stress.

Integration with other bears and access to an outdoor enclosure will likely take many months for a bear as traumatised as Sky.

As a result of her 14 years on a bear bile farm, Sky has a number of health issues. She is naturally a large bear but is also extremely overweight having been fed an unsuitable diet and kept in a small space with no opportunities to exercise.

Her excess weight has resulted in areas of infected skin as well as arthritis in her left elbow and along her spine which is permanently misshapen.

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

“Every bear is an individual and reacts differently to stress, trauma and new situations. This period of change is proving difficult for Sky but we can already see her begin to drop her defences. Progress will be slow, but we know Sky will in time learn to trust her new life. She will know happiness again.”

Bear bile farming has been specifically illegal in Vietnam since 2005, when every bear in captivity was microchipped. However, without facilities to hold the over 4,000 bears on farms at the time, owners were permitted to keep their bears and the practice was able to persist.

However, in 2017, the government signed a landmark agreement with Animals Asia that will see every farm closed and the remaining 800 bears sent to sanctuaries by 2022 as the country works to eradicate the cruel trade.

In August, Animals Asia successfully rescued five moon bears from a farm in the far southern province of Tien Giang.

Having exposed and opposed bear bile farming since 1998, Animals Asia has rescued over 600 bears in Vietnam and China. Today, nearly 200 bears continue to live cruelty-free lives at Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre, while a further 192 are cared for by the charity in China.

Animals Asia’s work to rescue bears from the extreme cruelty of the bear bile industry and give them cruelty-free lives at our sanctuaries is entirely funded by the public.  Please help Sky overcome cruelty, and send a gift today.