Moon Bear Cub Rescued From Trafficker in Vietnam

She likely would've been sold to a bile farm or as an exotic pet.

rescued moon bear cub
The cub was named Wonder for the 'W' on her chest.

Animals Asia

Crammed in a cage on the back of a motorcycle, a young moon bear cub was being whisked away by a trafficker in North Vietnam, until police intercepted it.

Police had been tipped off by members of Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV), a wildlife protection agency that had been monitoring the trafficker’s movements for a month. They stopped the trafficker on his bike as he crossed the border from Laos into the Dien Bien region of North Vietnam.

The bear was likely going to be sold to a bile farm or as an exotic pet, according to wildlife aid group Animals Asia, which picked up the cub from the police station and took it to their sanctuary.

Rescuers named the cub “Wonder” for the distinctive white “W” marking on her chest, but also because there are so many things they don’t know about the animal.

“We wonder where they came from, we wonder how they suffered and what became of their mother. We wonder what would have happened if they hadn’t been saved from an unknown yet certain terrifying fate,” the group said in a statement.

“But what we did know is that this little cub would soon be safe in our care, and will never have to suffer and be scared or alone ever again.”

A Wildlife Trade Crackdown

rescued moon bear in cage
The bear was in this cage, strapped to a motorcycle.

Animals Asia

Also known as Asiatic black bears, moon bears are often kept on farms in small cages to collect bile, a substance used in some forms of traditional medicine. Bear farming is now illegal in Vietnam and South Korea, but scarce enforcement and legal loopholes have allowed the practice to continue in some sites.

Asiatic black bears are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with their population numbers decreasing. Threats include hunting, as well as habitat loss due to logging, agriculture, and roads.

“This cub is so small—around 30 kilograms (66 pounds). It’s likely she was snatched from the wild and saw her mother being killed as she would have fought fiercely to protect her cub,” Animals Asia Vietnam Bear and Vet Team Director Heidi Quine tells Treehugger.

“This operation is important to show that Vietnamese authorities are cracking down on the wildlife trade, and this dedication might help other bears in future.”

According to Animals Asia, several cubs have recently been confiscated in the province. They suspect there’s a cross-border trade and that many bears have been transferred illegally from Laos into Vietnam.

“The offender said that there are three cubs in their place in Laos,” Quine says. “They brought Wonder to Vietnam to sell because she is the biggest and strongest among the others.”

Wonder is the 12th bear that Animals Asia rescued from the Dien Bien province since 2007. Earlier this year, the group rescued 101 moon bears from a former bile farm in China.

Safe In a Sanctuary

rescued moon bear eating watermelon
Rescuers found that Wonder loves watermelon.

Animals Asia

When Animals Asia found out about the cub, they couldn’t immediately rush to get her. Team members had to await negative COVID-19 tests before they could travel the 500 kilometers (311 miles) from the sanctuary to the police station where the bear was being held.

In the meantime, police officers were caring for the cub, feeding her a selection of fruits and vegetables. (She preferred watermelon.)

When rescuers arrived, they coaxed Wonder into her transport cage using a selection of treats. Then lined her cage with banana leaves and filled it with fruit and water to make the long journey comfortable and safe.

“Our vet team didn't see a big health concern in her. She is currently in our quarantine area where she will spend 45 days adjusting to her new environment. Our team will start the process of building the cub’s trust in us and confidence that they are finally safe and their new, happy life is just beginning,” Quine says.

“After this essential quarantine period Wonder will begin to be able to get a feel for the real wonders of sanctuary life; stepping outside, making new friends, foraging for treats.”

View Article Sources
  1. Animals Asia Vietnam Bear and Vet Team Director Heidi Quine

  2. "Bear Cub ‘Wonder’ is Rescued from Illegal Traffickers and Arrives Safely at Animals Asia’s Vietnam Sanctuary." Animals Asia, 2021.

  3. Animals Asia's Founder and CEO Jill Robinson

  4. Garshelis, D., and R. Steinmetz. "Asiatic Black Bear." IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, 2016, doi:10.2305/