In 2014 Animals Asia was provided with an amazing opportunity to help rescue 120 bears from a bear bile farm near Nanning city in Guangxi Province. The farm was part of a state-owned company that was eager to discontinue bear farming as they saw no future in it and also because the company’s General Manager had come to recognize the cruelty behind the industry.

Without hesitation, we accepted the opportunity to carry out our biggest rescue ever, and a plan was formulated to relocate half the bears to our China Bear Rescue Centre in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, to create enough room for expansion and renovation of the existing site.

Nanning Scene

It’s hard to believe that this beautiful, idyllic setting...

Nanning Farm

...held over 100 bears in captivity.

Cage after cage of untold misery and terror. But that was all about to change...

Cage after cage of bears subjected to bile extraction.

The bears on this bile farm had been kept for many years in unsuitable conditions.

They had no access to fresh water and their diet was inappropriate for adequate nourishment, lacking the nutrients that Asiatic black bears would obtain from a natural diet in the wild. Changing the bears’ food was a priority to help them regain their health, with a delicious mix of fruit and vegetables supplemented with nourishing dog biscuits replacing weak, rice gruel. Freely-accessible water troughs were also installed.

Meanwhile yard by yard, cage by cage, all areas were cleaned with pressure washers, and cubs like Smudge – the last cub born on the farm – were integrated with other bears for companionship. Each bear now had full-time access to an indoor yard where they could stroll around.

With plans progressing, formal discussions underway and applications for transport permits being prepared, a developer stepped in to buy the entire facility as an investment project. This turn of events changed the status of the small bear farm area, including it and unfortunately, the bears as part of the company’s assets being sold. This buy-out has seen so many complications and hurdles over the last five years, that all assets have been frozen while negotiations are still ongoing.


Food Boxes

The bears were thrilled with their tasty new diet – fresh every day and full of goodness.


As well as fresh drinking water, they also enjoyed gloriously refreshing hose showers...


Hose shower

... which they adored, and still can’t get enough of today!

Health checks started right away.

The first few weeks were particularly tough as it was very hot and humid on the farm, with no modern air-conditioning. Conditions were basic, with a surgery yet to be set up and so the very first health-checks were done in makeshift, field conditions. Many surgeries lasted up to nine hours, with the Vet Team working without a break.

By July 2014, we had a basic surgery room with air-conditioning, and while it remained a difficult environment to work in, the health checks ran more smoothly as the team got into a rhythm, determined to check as many bears as possible, prioritising older or weaker bears.

Over the years, while our managers and carers have worked on site with the bears, our stoic vet team has made countless trips to Nanning to perform their healing magic on the bears. Sometimes to clip long claws in danger of becoming ingrown. Sometimes to treat a bear with worrying diarrhoea. Sometimes to perform life-saving surgery.

Emily Drayton

Senior Vet Emily (Eddie) Drayton already has her hands full caring for bears like Ginny at our Chengdu sanctuary – where at least the vet team has the latest veterinary equipment...


...but on top of this, they make numerous extended trips each year – dealing with very basic clinical conditions – to make sure the Nanning bears get the very best care too. This is vet Rachel Sanki in action.


Many of the Nanning bears have needed emergency surgery to provide relief from crippling pain... and for some it’s been life-saving.

Claws Clipped

The bears receive regular ‘manicures’ to stop their claws piercing their paw pads.

A major challenge was improving the mental health of the bears. Many showed signs of distress. Stereotypical behaviour – like pacing and head swaying was common.

China Bear and Vet Team Director Nic Field is in charge of the bears’ overall well-being. She explained that to help them recover, their carers introduced simple items to keep them stimulated – balls, puzzle feeders, ice blocks, giant banana leaves and strong smelling smears such as peanut butter and stinky tofu. The bears loved them.

And thanks to a generous UK donor, each of these gorgeous bears got their very own paddling pool!


Ronnie aka John makes the most of his paddling pool...

Wai Kee and Smudge

... while Wai Kee and Smudge are happy to double dip.

Alex Ball

Alex loves his ball... tossing it across his yard then lolloping happily after it.

The transfer of the Nanning bears to the China Bear Rescue Center in Chengdu has been delayed because of a series of corporate restructures involving the company that owns the bears. It is still the subject of negotiation and as such, its assets cannot be disposed of. The sale and subsequent negotiations has resulted in numerous bureaucratic and regulatory hurdles, but we are seeing some progress at last and hope that the company’s acquisition will be completed soon. We are currently in discussion with both the company and provincial authorities on solutions that will lead to the separation and transfer of all of the bears to Chengdu. We are confident that, in time, this can be accomplished.

The welfare of the bears is our highest priority. Since we began taking care of them in 2014, under an agreement with the company that owns them, our Bear and Vet Team professional staff have been based in Nanning to provide the highest standards of care possible. Appropriate nutrition, enrichment and medical care sees the bears in much improved physical and psychological health. We look forward to them soon being released into our award winning sanctuary in Chengdu.


Kind words and fruity shakes mean the world to bears like gentle little Jeanne.

Puzzle feeder

Simple bamboo puzzle feeders keep the bears occupied for hours.


Baloo still has the scars from years of frustrated rubbing against his cage bars. But he’s a much happier bear today.


And of course we love to spoil these beautiful bears like Francis, with extra special treats on special occasions.

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Bear Profiles

Meet some of the most iconic bears that Animals Asia has cared for at its award-winning sanctuaries in China and Vietnam