Rescued moon bear Popeye has been nervous since his rescue from a bear bile farm, but this footage shows he's now relishing sanctuary life.
Moon bear Popeye, was one of nearly 40 bears Animals Asia rescued in 2015 from bear bile farms across Vietnam's Quang Ninh province – home to tourism hotspot Halong Bay.
In the tiny cage where he endured a lifetime of mistreatment, Popeye was left with no room to exercise and his awful diet meant he kept piling on the kilo's.
At the time of his rescue vet Mandala Hunter-Ishikawa called him the largest bear she'd ever handled. Meanwhile the team struggled to get the vast bear on board the rescue truck.
Since arriving at Animals Asia's sanctuary, Popeye is a much healthier bear. He now has access to a large outdoor enclosure, a suitable diet and the freedom to explore and play as he pleases.
But despite having been at the sanctuary for more than a year and being integrated with moon bear buddies Hercules and Kujira, Popeye has remained a shy, quiet and nervous bear – never letting himself get too close to his carers or other bears.
So it was with great surprise and delight that Animals Asia staff watched Popeye splash and play in his pool this week as if he hadn't a care in the world.
Animals Asia Bear Manager Kelly Donithan said:
"When I saw Popeye splashing around it was such a wonderful sight. He has been a nervous, quiet bear from the start and has needed a lot of time to adapt to all the changes in his life.
"He took a long time to feel confident in the enclosure and it was a big deal when he was finally comfortable playing outside with Kujira and Hercules. To see him so comfortable and relaxed in the pool was another milestone in his rehabilitation.
"Sometimes milestones such as playing in a pool happen subtly and can go unnoticed in the busy commotion of sanctuary life. But for me, these are the moments that bring the most joy and satisfaction. They show a bear has, in his or her own time, built a new life and is truly enjoying it. Popeye was certainly enjoying his new life and to catch it on camera was truly special."