Hopeful News As Animals Asia Rescues A Bear Named Paddington After Living A Heartbreaking Life On A Bile Farm For 17 Years

Global animal welfare organization Animals Asia rescued a female moon bear, nicknamed ‘Paddington,’ from a small cage on a bear bile farm in Vietnam last week. After initial health checks, the organization’s expert bear team believes that Paddington spent about 17 years, her entire life, suffering repeated bile extractions.

The Animals Asia team received a call from the Forest Protection Department in Nam Dinh province about a bear the Vietnam police spotted on a bile farm. The farmer, who decided to hand over the bear voluntarily, said that he bought the bear from a wildlife trafficker back in 2005.

The organization and the Vietnamese authorities have been working together for years to end bear bile farming in the country through public outreach campaigns and reached out to hundreds of farmers to end this cruel practice.

After obtaining information about the bear and her location, Animals Asia’s expert team, which has saved hundreds of bears from bile farms over the years, made a rescue plan specifically for this operation. On Thursday morning, the rescue team sprung into action and departed from Animals Asia’s Tam Dao Sanctuary to Nam Dinh province to save Paddington from all of the pain that she has endured over the years. 

The rescuers found the poor bear in a tiny cage, hidden in a dark and damp annex in the farmer’s garden. The bear was weaving and rocking, which is stereotypical of bears that have languished on bile farms for years.

Animals Asia’s veterinary team decided to sedate Paddington for initial health checks and transportation, not to stress her further. She initially looked healthy but needed dental treatment, which is a common issue among bile bears, as they chew the bars of their cages in which they are held captive. 

Realizing the horrible reality of bear bile farming, the farmer shared that he wanted Paddington to live the rest of her life as a bear should, and wants to visit her at Animals Asia’s sanctuary.

When she woke on her way to Animals Asia’s sanctuary in Tam Dao, she enjoyed some jam, which reminded the rescue team of her namesake bear, Paddington. Her appetite for delicious snacks continued when she arrived at the organization’s award-winning sanctuary and happily ate the mix of banana leaves, carrots, pumpkins, tomatoes, and apples.

Paddington will spend her first 30 days in a quarantine area, where she will be under intensive care, and her health will be carefully monitored. The quarantine period is important for her to prepare to enter dens and enclosures with other bears, and it will help her gradually regain strength and confidence.

In the much-loved children’s story “Paddington Bear,” Aunt Lucy gave sage advice to Paddington Bear, before sending the orphaned bear off to find a new and better life far away. Inspired by this story, Animals Asia decided to name the recently rescued bear “Paddington,” in order to show her the kind of compassion shown by Aunt Lucy. But this story has a deeper meaning for Animals Asia’s founder and CEO, Jill Robinson, MBE.

“During Animals Asia’s 24 years of operating, we have rescued 670 bears, and each has a special place in my heart, with unique stories that I will never forget. But as a British expat who has lived overseas for decades, the story of Paddington Bear has a particular meaning, as a reminder of my youth,” said Robinson.

“The story of a hurt and lonely bear looking for home mirrors the stories of the hundreds of bears we have saved from bile farms, and given a home. Having seen so many poignant rescues and wonderful progress at Animals Asia, I was honored to receive an MBE from her late Majesty. In light of recent events, and joining the world in a sad farewell to Queen Elizabeth, we felt that it was appropriate to thank her for everything and name this bear Paddington in her honor, as a tribute to the original story with its message of kindness and acceptance that continues to inspire people everywhere,” continued Robinson.

Like her storybook namesake, who once declared, “I’m a very rare sort of bear – there aren’t many of us left where I come from,” Paddington is also part of an endangered species in Vietnam.

There are so few moon bears left in the wild, but hundreds are still trapped in cages on bile farms. Bear bile farming has been pushing Asiatic black bears (aka moon bears) and sun bears towards extinction in the country, as The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the species as “vulnerable to extinction,” with an overall estimated decline of 31% for the last 30 years.

The most up-to-date surveys show that there are around 310 bears still on farms in Vietnam. After signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Vietnamese Government in 2017, Animals Asia has begun to rescue these remaining bears. Thankfully, the bile farms will be closed forever throughout the country.

Animals Asia’s bear rescue center in Tam Dao, Vietnam, is now approaching full capacity. The organization broke ground last May on a new sanctuary to start rescuing the remaining bears on bile farms. This new 12-hectare sanctuary will sit within the beautiful, mountainous surroundings of the Bach Ma National Park and eventually be home to all the rescued bears from farms.

Once the last bear is saved, this trade will be history in Vietnam, and will set a precedent for other countries in the region to follow. For Animals Asia, it will be the achievement of one of their founding goals, to end bear bile farming in the country.

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