Bears move into Animals Asia new sanctuary in Vietnam

Buzz the rescue bear has started 2024 with grass between her toes.

The formerly neglected animal is one of the first bears to move into Animals Asia's new sanctuary in Vietnam's Bach Ma National Park.

According to Animals Asia, the organization rescued the bear from a bear bile farm in October after receiving a call from the Vietnamese authorities about a bear bile farmer looking to surrender their animals.

When Animals Asia arrived at the farm, the nonprofit's rescuers found Buzz and another bear, Armstrong, in "tiny, barren, dark cages," where these received regular painful bile extractions.

"The conditions on these bile farms are inhumane and unhygienic. The bile bears are often kept in very small cages in which they cannot turn around or stand up. Bears grow up in these tiny cages to the point where their bodies have contorted to fit the bars," a spokesperson for Animals Asia said in a statement.

Rescuers moved the bears from their cages for the first time since 2002 and transported them to the sanctuary. Once the bears settled in, they went through a 30-day quarantine period.

"This is to keep them under intensive care, to monitor their mental and physical health carefully. The quarantine period is also important to prepare them for accessing the dens and enclosures with other bears, to help them gradually regain strength and confidence," Animals Asia shared.

In December, after completing the quarantine period and receiving treatment for dehydration, dental issues, and malnutrition, Buzz got the opportunity to see her large outdoor habitat at the sanctuary for the first time.

A few days later, rescuers reintroduced Buzz to Armstrong, the other bear rescued living from the same farm as Buzz.

"There's such a deep and special bond between these two. Indeed, Armstrong and Buzz have been together on the farm for more than 20 years without having any direct interactions, but they always sense each other's presence. In their first meeting, they cuddled right after our team pulled the sliding door. The both got super excited as if the couples had been separated for too long, finally meeting each other after all the longings and love," Animals Asia said.

Buzz and Armstrong are now living as den mates, keeping each other company and enjoying the spoils of their caring new home together. Buzz has shown her caretakers that she loves honey and strawberry jam and enjoys a good nap after a snack.

Moon bears and sun bears, the species commonly used in bile farming, are nearing extinction in Vietnam, with an estimated decline of 31% over the last 30 years, according to the organization.