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When rescued, this emaciated bear could barely walk – look at him now

06 October 2017

Life on a bear bile farm caused moon bear Wolfie’s muscles to waste away due to lack of use, but loving care is helping him learn how to be a bear again.

Standing upright and swaying his head from side to side in a classic sign of distress, rescuers could clearly see the bones of Wolfie’s massive frame poking through his sagging skin.

Thankfully, Wolfie and eight other bears were rescued in June from a bear bile farm in southern Vietnam and taken to Animals Asia’s sanctuary to begin their recovery from a lifetime of abuse.

Staff at the sanctuary were confident that with a carefully selected diet of fresh fruit and vegetables, Wolfie would soon gain some much-needed weight and grow into the bear he was destined to be.

Because Wolfie arrived so emaciated – with his muscles having literally wasted away due to lack of use – he initially struggled to coordinate his long limbs.

But his slightly awkward, lumbering gait has not stopped him – aided by his plucky spirit – from exploring the outside world.

With each passing day and with each healthy meal, Wolfie has grown stronger and gained increasing control over his abused body.

From a tight iron cage in which he could barely stand up, Wolfie now has a large grassy enclosure to explore, packed with plenty of bamboo climbing frames, water pools and trees where he can exercise and rebuild his strength.

His strength has returned to such a degree that he can now climb up to his comfy basket for a good night’s sleep.

Animals Asia Bear Manager Sarah van Herpt said:

“Wolfie already towers over the team and other bears, so once he puts on a bit of muscle, he will be one of our biggest bears at the sanctuary. We’re pleased to see that he’s already well on his way to regaining his strength.

“Wolfie loves the sweet treats such as jam that we spread around the enclosure to encourage the bears to maintain their foraging instincts and to keep them stimulated throughout the day.

“Considering how emaciated Wolfie was when he arrived he could have been forgiven for giving up on some of the harder to reach treats – but that’s not Wolfie’s way. He is both determined and patient, and has shown amazing resilience since he arrived.

“Once he puts on some more weight and his full strength returns, we’re hopeful Wolfie will join an established community. No doubt they will enjoy his big, playful personality.”

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

“It is critically important for bears who have been rescued from a caged existence to be kept busy and stimulated throughout the day. It helps to speed up their rehabilitation from years of discomfort and cruelty.

“By encouraging them to play and forage, we are trying to wean them off negative behaviour associated with being kept in atrocious conditions on bear bile farms.

“When he was on the farm, Wolfie would try to chew his way through the metal bars that kept him a prisoner. This vain attempt to escape left him with marks – like the Joker’s smile – on the side of his mouth. He also had an array of rub marks on his head, indicating chronic stress. Happily, Wolfie is already beginning to lose some of the patterns of repetitive behaviour that is typical of mistreated animals.”

To date, Animals Asia has rescued over 600 bears – mostly from the bear bile industry – with around 270 bears continuing to live out their lives at sanctuaries in Vietnam and China.

Around 1,000 bears in Vietnam continue to suffer from the trade in medicinal bile, although a landmark legal agreement signed between Animals Asia and the Vietnam government will see the industry completely eradicated within the next five years.

This article was amended to clarify that the MOU will run for five years from the date of the last signature.


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