Rescued as crying orphans – now these happy bears are growing up fast
They saw their mothers killed by poachers before being rescued from traffickers but they’re finding happiness together in their sanctuary.
Life has been tragic for young moon bears Wilf, Elsie and Monty. All three were captured as cubs in Vietnam – their mothers most likely killed by poachers intending to sell the children into a lifetime of suffering on a bear bile farm.
Thanks to forest rangers, the cubs were spared that awful fate, but they were still far from safe. Now they’ve swapped their “cub house” for a new pad befitting their “juvenile” status. These bears are almost grown up.
Caring for cubs requires specialist care well beyond the capacity of Vietnam’s government run rescue centres.
Without anywhere to go, all three would likely have languished in cages similar to those on bile farms with little stimulation – not out of cruelty, purely through a lack of resources and expertise.
Fortunately, for Monty, Wilf and Elsie, they were transferred to Animals Asia’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre in 2015 where they have received a second chance at life.At the sanctuary, the bears are fed a healthy diet, kept constantly engaged with tailored enrichment programmes and have the freedom to explore spacious dens and outdoor spaces.
And not only are the bears’ basic needs met – all three are thriving at the sanctuary.
Animals Asia Bear Manager Sarah van Herpt said:
“They are growing up so fast – every day getting bigger and stronger. Out-growing the cub enclosure and ‘graduating’ to a larger enclosure is a landmark for these three and brings them one step closer to being integrated with the “big bears”, but only when they are ready.
“There are few things more tragic than an orphaned bear. It is heart-breaking. To see them now is night and day. They have found happiness together.
“Everyone at the sanctuary is very proud of these three young bears. Life hasn’t been kind to them and we can never replace their mothers, but they have each other for comfort and the whole team is dedicated to helping them adjust to all the changes in their lives and meeting their evolving needs.”
The juveniles are still in a group of three, but their carers hope to integrate them with a larger group once they are old enough.
Despite their young age, all three of the bears are beginning to exhibit strong personalities
Wilf has proven himself brave and charismatic, confidently exploring the entirety of his new enclosure, while Elsie is more nervous. It took her a long time to build up the courage to venture into the new outdoor space for the first time, but Wilf’s bold example helped.
Monty was the most nervous of the three – possibly as a result of his horrific experiences. When rescued, Monty was suffering from a wound to his right forelimb – likely caused when caught in a hunter’s snare during capture.
His carers at the sanctuary have spent countless hours building his confidence in bonding sessions to keep him calm, but he remains mentally traumatised. His injured limb continues to restrict his movement – and the muscle is forever damaged – but despite this Monty still manages to lead an active life.
Animals Asia’s Founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE said:
“Bears like Monty, Elsie and Wilf show how vitally important sanctuaries and rescue centres are in Vietnam. Illegal trafficking remains a huge problem. Sadly there are no safe spaces to release those that are saved – and most are so young that they simply have no survival skills.
“These beautiful young bears are safe now, but their story isn’t over. They can expect to live for another 28 years, and will need to be cared for every single day.
“It’s a huge commitment – literally a lifetime – but we’ve made the leap of faith that there are enough loving people around the world willing to provide care for these three and other young bears like them. The alternative is turning our backs on them and leaving them in small cages for the rest of their lives. We can’t let that happen. They need us.”