On May 20th, as the in-country COVID-19 related travel restrictions eased, our local Vietnamese team were able to make the 60 km journey to rescue two 18-year-old bears from a private backyard and bring them to our BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh. The owner has had the bears, Cuc and Nhai, since they were just cubs, and both the bears have spent their lives in tiny, dirty metal cages.
Sadly this is not uncommon in Vietnam, where around 400 bears area are still being kept in private keeping and abused for their bile, despite the demand for bear bile for healing purposes is, reportedly declining.
The owner of the bears voluntarily gave up the care of the bears after being asked by the authorities, with FOUR PAWS then asked to take over the bears rescue and care.
The initial health checks of the bears went smoothly, and the bears coped very well with the transport to the sanctuary. When they arrived, they thoroughly enjoyed being showered by the team due to the high humidity. Both bears have to undergo a quarantine period of three weeks where they will receive a specialised and intensive veterinary treatment and species-diet to boost their immune system. They are also supplied with an extensive enrichment programme for their mental stimulation.
Update 04 June
Cuc and Nhai have been progressing well at BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh and after years of abuse and boredom, have been enjoying their enrichment programme. At first, Nhai was observed to be a very picky eater, she was very slow which indicated some dental discomfort, however, as she is becoming more comfortable with eating, the team has made the decision not to do a full medical vet check at the moment to minimise her stress during her adaptation.
Currently, both the bears are kept separate and unfortunately, don't seem to like each other very much. When they were close together, they were growing at one another, but in their previous home they were kept separate and had never seen each other, and so for now, the team have put up a visual barrier between their enclosures so they cannot see each other. This could be a behaviour that will change when the bears are moved to the bear house, and possibly even be integrated with each other in the future.
Update 12 June
The bears quarantine period is over and the bears have been moved to the bear house to begin the next step of their journey to the big outdoor enclosures! Seeing and smelling all the other bears was quite exciting for them. They have hammocks and straw and lots of enrichment to keep them occupied and help them to settle in.
In the bear house, both will spend at least two weeks in the dens and getting used to even more changes than in quarantine, for example, here they are able to see and smell the other bears, enjoy the bigger space and more enrichment before the bear team decide when they are ready to go out into the big outdoor enclosures. Even then it may take weeks and months for them to be fully comfortable utilising the whole outdoor space without fear. The team consider very carefully that these animals have come from a very confined living and have been abused and traumatised for decades.
Update 15 July
Cuc and Nhai have started exploring their outdoor enclosures at BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh for the first time. Cuc is a little more cautious than Nhai and only ventures a few meters out so far. However, she enjoys just sitting in front of the bear house and taking in the new surroundings. Nhai explores a little further and is very curious about all the grass and plants, stopping to sniff the wild flowers. For both bears this is a big step and it can be very daunting.
Having lived in bile farm cages for decades these new experiences are exciting but also scary. This is why we take their rehabilitation process step by step, gradually adjusting them to their new life.
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