Although bile bear farming in Vietnam is slowly coming to an end, still more than 200 bears are kept in cages on so called bear farms. On of them was bear Na. For two decades, Na suffered in a tiny cage comprised of metal bars – even on the floor.
Shocking keeping conditions
Na was kept in a small cage barely larger than the size of a shower cubicle. She did not even have drinking water at free disposal. In her past, she was abused for bile extraction over and over again, a cruel procedure in which a needle is used to extract bile from the bladder. Her front paw is missing – a sad sign that she most probably was caught in the wild and injured by a hunting trap.
This has been Na’s life for the last two decades. In all those years she never felt soft grass under her paws. Instead, she was kept in a dim storage room of a family house with barely any daylight. Before her last companion died a few months ago, Na lived in the room with five other bears. She had nothing to occupy herself with, and she had clearly resigned herself to her sad fate. Fortunately, the farmer has agreed to hand her over into FOUR PAWS’ care voluntarily.
Na suffers from multiple severe health issues commonly seen in bile bears, such as chronic osteoarthritis, dental, liver and heart disease. We also suspect Na has glaucoma in her left eye, which is an incredibly painful condition. She has rubbed all the fur off that side of her face, likely because of the excruciating pain.
We will perform further diagnostics and subsequent surgery as soon as possible. Now that she is safely in our care, we will make sure Na receives all the care and medical treatment she so urgently needs.
The journey home
On the evening of 16 October (Vietnam time), the FOUR PAWS team in Vietnam received the final signed papers to rescue bear Na. The team immediately set off for Na and loaded her onto the truck on the 17th.
Na is a very calm and gentle bear. She got some fruits on the road, straw and several hessian bags for bedding. She was already rearranging the straw to make a nice bed out if it. She was very tired and, even on the road, was probably more comfortable than she has ever been in her entire life. Our vet also gave her some pain meds in honey.
She really likes dragon fruit, eating it carefully as if never having tried it before. She cannot eat any hard or crunchy food, so our team has given her a soft-food diet of cooked rice and dragon fruit mixed up together. Continuity can be critical. We do not want to completely change her diet overnight and cause gastrointestinal issues. Hence, we continue with rice like she is used to, for the present time. Considering the change underway and potential stressors, these are steps in the right direction for Na.
A new beginning
Finally arrived at her new forever home, BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh, Na´s recovery process can begin. She will spend 30 days in quarantine. This is primarily to prevent any disease transfer to the bears already resident in the sanctuary. She will also be provided with an array of different enrichment, comfortable bedding, and anything she might require.
So far, Na is doing well in quarantine. She is still adjusting her eating and sleeping habits in the new, healthy environment. Her favourite foods are dragon fruit and morning glory (a type of water spinach). She will choose these over everything else. Each time she gets something new she eats it very carefully and slowly as if deciding whether she likes it or not.
She rests and sleeps a lot and sometimes plays with enrichment items if she feels like it. So far, she shows great interest in new enrichment items, and sometimes is more interested in food boxes than the food itself. She carefully tears them up into pieces and then plays with the bits of cardboard for a while. She also likes tearing up banana trees with her claws.
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