Bears rescued after living for 17 years in pitch black

Two black bears that were rescued from an illegal 'bile farm' in Vietnam after living for 17 years in pitch black cellars have been given a bright new home at a bear sanctuary.

The Asiatic bears - a male named Xuan and a female named Mo - lived in total darkness and were only able to see artificial light when they were undergoing excruciating bile extraction procedures, which was taken for use in traditional medicine and cosmetic products.

Xuan had been cruelly kept in a small cage in the basement of a clothes shop in Son La, northern Vietnam, since 2004, when he was just a cub. It is not known exactly how long Mo was kept with him, but she is believed to have lived there for many years.

But the mistreated bears have now started a new life at the Ninh Binh Bear Sanctuary after they were rescued from the dank cellars in March by animal charity Four Paws, who said the living conditions were some of the worst they had ever seen.

Heartwarming images and video footage show the two black bears, who are still in poor health due to their traumatic past locked in cages, embracing their loving new home, where they are able to see natural daylight

Although the bears have been rescued from the dire environment in the basement, they both still face a long road to recovery as they are suffering from both physical illnesses and psychological scars.

Xuan and Mo were found in rusty and dirty cages, the charity said, adding that they were left 'speechless' after discovering the bears had no access to fresh air or natural daylight in the windowless basement. 

After their rescue on March 23, both bears were medically checked and cleared for the nine-hour return journey to the Ninh Binh Bear Sanctuary. Xuan and Mo will now receive care to help them recover from the horrific ordeal.

The charity found both bears were suffering from gallbladder disease as a result of being repeatedly stabbed in the organ with probes designed to extract their bile. 

The bear sanctuary, which was set up by Four Paws, is home to some 40 Asiatic black bears, all of which were 'not only victims of cruel bile farming prior to their rescue, but also of illegal wildlife trafficking'. 

Xuan and Mo were sadly kept in separate cages during their years living in the basement so they will be monitored at the sanctuary over the coming months to see if they can be socialised with other bears.

But the two black bears are both in such poor health that it is unclear if they will ever recover or be able to join their fellow Asiatic bears.

A statement explained: 'Xuan, like most former bile bears, suffers multiple diseases and due to his extremely difficult past he is struggling with severe behavioural abnormalities. 

'The animal caretakers have been intensively working with him for the past weeks as it is very difficult to get him to take his medication. Last week, the onsite team noticed that Xuan had significantly deteriorated! It was decided to immediately examine him under anaesthesia.

'His already diagnosed ailments had worsened and he additionally developed pancreatitis and gastritis. Sadly, all these conditions are extremely painful. 

'His treatment plan is focused on controlling pain, inflammation and infection, but also when and if needed with the help of behavioural medications we will try to make him less stressed and scared.

'He spent the next few days in the allocated area for hospitalised patients in our veterinary clinic at the Ninh Binh Bear Sanctuary for close monitoring and further treatment.'

Four Paws added that Xuan has many 'psychological scars' because he hasn't yet understood that his 'years of trauma' are now behind him following his rescue.

The statement continued: 'Unfortunately Xuan is one of many rescued animals that had to endure years of trauma, leaving not only physical but also psychological scars. 

'When these animals are rescued and brought to a safe and suitable place, they might not immediately understand or recognise that their horrible past is behind them. A successful rescue itself often signals the start of our work, not the finish!

'The way to recovery for Xuan will be long, but we will be next to him 24/7. Hopefully, with all the efforts and energy invested by the dedicated team, he will start to improve over time.' 

Xuan and Mo are both living in a quarantine area at the sanctuary while receiving intensive medical care, to prevent any potential disease transfer between them and the other bears living at the sanctuary