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Nanning Bears - August 2014

18 August 2014

Six weeks after the first round of health checks on site, the vet teams and support staff were back at the Nanning bear farm in late July to carry out more checks on bears they had noted as in urgent need of help.

With the vet room set up in Shed 3, bears were carried in from other sheds for their health check. This was an intense week, as the team anaesthetised bears with unknown medical issues that could put them at risk under anaesthetic, yet necessary to relieve chronically painful conditions in order to give them the best chance of recovery. 

health check 1

It was a good week, as most of the bears on-site showed improvement and the health-checked bears generally fared well.

Read about the health checks in the Nanning Diaries here.

But it was also a sad week, as we lost three bears – Themba, who died before we could help him, Gaius Musonius Rufus, weakened post health-check, and Hazel, whose mobility swiftly deteriorated. It is a small number of bears given the years of abuse and the conditions they have all withstood on this and other bear farms, but it is — and always will be — too high a price.

Grave - themba

Click here to read their individual stories.

As the vet teams spent hours working on the prioritised bears, the bear team members were busy working with Senior Bear Manager, Heidi, and the bear farm staff members who are being re-trained to provide a new standard of care for the bears. Priority is given to nutrition – a balanced diet with fresh fruit and vegetables, varying and adequate quantities, delivered at set times. Free access to water and cooling hose-downs are vital for the bears in the soaring summer temperatures, and all hands are on deck to share the load.

But delivering these cooling showers is far from a chore! The young cubs in Shed 1 spring into action, playing in the water, batting it about, trying to catch the spray on their tongues – lolloping around their dens in joy. Such enrichment, delivered on a regular basis throughout the day keeps them active and engaged, and has literally improved their welfare in leaps and bounds!

Previously skinny, nervous little bears, who climbed high up their cages or went running scared into their dens at any approach, are beginning to show signs of recovery. Physically they are healthier, gaining weight and sporting healthier coats. Mentally, they are more relaxed – now curious and calm – and building relationships with their den mates through more activity and play, inspired by their new environment.

The more senior bears in Shed 2 and Shed 3 are less rambunctious, but equally welcoming of the cooling water. Lying down as the water puddles around them, turning over and back to ensure good coverage, or standing erect to get a head to paw drenching.

shower bear shed 3

These older bears remain watchful. They are more cautious of approach and follow activity in their sheds carefully. Their eyes reflect the betrayal, damage and pain they have suffered for many years. But these intelligent bears recognise the change in their environment and, slowly, they are changing with it. Bears who stereotyped — head-swaying, rubbing themselves bare and bloody against bars and walls, constantly circling their dens, over and over again — are sitting up and taking notice.

older bear 2

Some have made greater strides than others, but the stress-induced activity of many is easing. 


Gentle, trusting characters such as Florence...


... and Blueberry, are beginning to reveal themselves.


And then there’s Soraya, with a spirited look in her eye and a feisty attitude to match!


There’s Sniffy in Shed 2, a beautiful bear with an enormous head on a still-undernourished body. Curious and open at times, but often frantic and pacing as his deep-rooted stress overcomes him. Sniffy has had a health check and had severely damaged teeth removed. He is now eating better, and being monitored carefully for body-weight improvement.


Pops is one of the male, breeding bears kept in a different area from the main farm. He is doing well since his health-check, and loves his post-op medication, delivered in delicious, honey-covered marshmallows.


Little Smudge, the baby bear on site, has graduated from her pink wash-bowl-size bath, to a real baby bath, as she continues to thrive under the care of Heidi and the on-site team. She is curious and playful and in time, when construction is done and she has grown strong enough, she will meet the other young bears, as they all become acclimatised to new dens — with enclosures instead of cages attached.

As our bears are health-checked they are given “den names” by the bear and vet teams who care for them, until they receive their permanent names from sponsors.

There are many bears on site that remain unnamed:

cub shed 1

Just over one year old, this cub is typical of the young bears in Shed 1.

shed 3 bear

More mature bears live in Shed 2 and 3 - they have spent years on this farm and possibly others before it.

These “Nanning bears” will remain safe in our care as we take them from farm to freedom, transforming the farm into a sanctuary - Peace by Piece.

 Help us change their lives — get involved now!