Why Smudge needs love

27 June 2014

Heidi plays with Smudge

Taken from her mother at birth and now the only cub on Nanning Bear Farm, gorgeous little Smudge is in desperate need of tender loving care and great big dollops of quality time.

Moon bear cubs in the wild are lovingly nurtured by their mothers until around 18 months and are often born as twins or triplets. They are very playful at this age, exploring and wrestling with their siblings for hours on end – a vital part of physical and psychological development.

During this first year and a half of life, a bear cub’s mother is their safe haven offering protection and guidance. Cubs are all but defenceless at this stage and can become very stressed and even cry if their mother isn’t around to comfort them.

Smudge, however, was born to breeding bears at Nanning Bear Farm with no records existing as to who her mother is.

In order to give her the best possible care, staff at Animals Asia China have turned to colleagues in Vietnam – who have extensive cub experience – to find out how best to raise poor Smudge.

Animals Asia Bear & Vet Team Director for Vietnam, Annemarie Weegenaar was on hand to give advice, saying:

“As Smudge is a cub on her own, and there are no other cubs at Nanning, the best our bear team can do is offer Smudge some social time. Time for her to play, for her to be comforted and time to simply not be on her own.” 

However socialising with a moon bear takes a little bit of guidance.

Annemarie said:

“They tend to actually dislike very much to being up in the air with their legs dangling around, so we don’t advocate picking up and physically hugging the bear. It’s best to either sit on the floor with the cub, with toys in hand to encourage play, or sit on a structure where the cub can join you for some social time.”

And as the cubs do grow, they also become naturally more independent. Just as when they are raised by their mother, moon bear juveniles start to show less interest in their carers, and are more interested in doing their own thing.

smudge nudge

Heidi Quine, Animals Asia’s Senior Bear Manager in Nanning said:

“Ultimately we hope that when Smudge is old enough she’ll be able to meet other bears in Nanning and – when the time is right – be integrated into a group and make her own bear friends.”

Animals Asia founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE said:

“The sad news is that as long as there is demand for bear bile in Vietnam and China, there will be no safe place in these countries to release moon bears. As Smudge can’t be released and her mother can’t be found, it’s important that someone fills the void. There are plenty of experts, including author Else Poulsen who advocate mimicking the behaviour of the mother toward the cub. It’s not ideal, but it is a way to give Smudge a loving start in a terrible situation. On the plus side, however, as Smudge continues to grow, new enclosures will grow around her and she’ll be able to enjoy sunshine, open spaces and eventual integration with new bear friends.”

heidi plays with smudge 2