Moon Bear Cub in Tiny Cage Is Rescued from Traffickers

He's now at home in a sanctuary in Vietnam.

rescued moon bear
Yen has discovered he loves coconut in the shell.

Animals Asia

When rescuers arrived to save a frightened bear cub in Vietnam, the animal was cowering in a bird cage, only slightly bigger than he was. 

The Asiatic black bear, also known as a moon bear, had been found with illegal wildlife traffickers. Police in the region had confiscated the small animal and contacted the wildlife aid group Animals Asia for help.

The rescuers told the officers how to care for the cub, then they coordinated logistics to get the bear from the police station in Uong Bi to where the Animals Asia sanctuary is based in Tam Dao. The authorities made the four-hour trip to drop off the cub to his new home.

After their initial health exam, the team of veterinarians and bear care keepers determined that the cub was a male and named him Yen, meaning “peace” in Vietnamese.

“Emotionally, Yen was frightened. Once we had him settled into quarantine, he began to cry whenever we would switch off the lights and creep away. Of course, we couldn't leave him like that, so we sat with him for hours until he calmed down,” Heidi Quine, Animals Asia Vietnam bear and vet team director, tells Treehugger.

teddy bear outside moon bear cage
A teddy bear was placed nearby for comfort.

Animals Asia

They placed a huge teddy bear that they use for CPR practice next to his cage in hopes it would make him less lonely.

“I am most concerned about his psychological health. At this age, he should be with his mother in the forest,” Quine says.

“He would have witnessed terrible things in his young life—likely his mother being killed while trying to protect him. Then he was thrust, bewildered, into a human world that would have frightened and made no sense to him. I can't imagine what that must be like for a child.”

Moon Bears and Bile Farming

This is the 650th bear Animals Asia has rescued. Yen has likely avoided a lifetime on a bile farm.

Moon bears are often kept in small cages on farms in order to collect bile, a substance found in many animals, including humans. Bear bile is used in some forms of traditional medicine.

Bear bile farming is now illegal in Vietnam and South Korea, although limited enforcement and legal loopholes have allowed the practice to endure in some places. Animals Asia has two sanctuaries in Vietnam and China where nearly 650 moon bears now live, after having been rescued from bile farms.

The organization works closely with local governments, authorities, and activists to save bears and spread the message about conservation, as well as synthetic alternatives to bear bile.

The group signed an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the Vietnamese government to build a bear rescue center in 2005.

“Over the decade and a half that has followed, Animals Asia has demonstrated time and time again that we are an organisation of integrity and best practise that the government can rely on,” Quine says. “Because of this, it's almost always Animals Asia that the authorities contact when they confiscate a bear. Similarly, it is Animals Asia that the government reaches out to when advice is needed on animal welfare policy development and management.”

Asiatic black bears are classified as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with their population numbers decreasing.

Settling In

moon bear at sanctuary
Yen will soon be out of quarantine.

Animals Asia

Yen will spend 45 day in the sanctuary’s quarantine area, then will slowly be introduced to some of the other residents.

No longer so nervous and afraid, he’s beginning to adjust to sanctuary life.

“His carers report he is already developing favourite foods (he loves fresh coconut in the shell) and is very, very playful,” Quine says.

The period of adjustment is different for every animal, she says.

“I can think of bears who seemed almost immediately to settle into sanctuary life and realise they were safe. Others, however, have taken over a year to build the confidence even to set paws on grass for the first time,” Quine says.

“My best thinking would be that Yen will settle in well—fortunately, we have another cub here who is the same age, a female moon bear called Wonder. We will almost certainly integrate the pair, and they will spend years tumbling through the enclosures in play.”

View Article Sources
  1. "Trafficked Moon Bear Cub Safe at Animals Asia's Sanctuary." Animals Asia, 2021.

  2. "Five Things You Need to Know About Bear Farming." Animals Asia, 2021.

  3. Animals Asia's Founder and CEO Jill Robinson

  4. Heidi Quine, Animals Asia Vietnam bear and vet team director

  5. Garshelis, D. & Steinmetz, R. "Asiatic Black Bear." The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020, doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-3.RLTS.T22824A166528664.en