Vietnam: Emergency Bear Rescue (of Tuan) from an Illegal Farm in Tam Duong.

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Emergency Bear Rescue from an Illegal Farm in Tam Duong

16 October 2019

At about 2pm Vietnam time Tuesday, we received an urgent telephone call from local police alerting us to the imminent confiscation of a bear from an illegal farm in Tam Duong just under 20km from our Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre in Tam Dao National Park. 

Our team sprung into action for what was to be the 210th bear rescued by our Vietnam team and brought to our sanctuary. Upon loading up the trucks, the team was swiftly on their way to the farm. What they found there was heartbreaking.

In a tiny cage whose floor was covered in faeces, we found a portly bear who had for the last 15 years — what amounts to almost his entire life — never set foot on the ground, only walking on the bars of the cage that was his prison. He had no visible food or water and was surrounded by the sounds of loud squealing pigs from the pig farm where he was held. The team on the ground decided to call the bear Tuan in honor of our fearless and pioneering Vietnam  Director Tuan Bendixsen, especially given the fact that for the first time ever Tuan could not join the rescue. Tuan also means ‘handsome’ and this big bear is certainly a handsome boy.

The farmer said that he didn’t know that the bear needed to be microchipped and so he was handing him over to the authorities who were confiscating the bear. Due to our hard work over the decades, funded by supporters around the world, we have built a great working relationship and trust with the local authorities and police which is why we were able to act so swiftly in responding to this urgent rescue.


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Our Vietnam Vet and Bear Team Director Heidi Quine reported:

“The farmer has had Tuan for fifteen years, since he was a five kilo cub which is very young. That’s a bear that should have been with his mother in the wild.”

After Veterinary Nurse Kat Donaldson used honey on a stick to calm and distract Tuan, our Senior Veterinary Surgeon Shaun Thomson anaesthetised him, making it safe for the team to use bolt cutters to remove the lock on the farm cage and remove Tuan for an initial health inspection.

The brief health check  indicated that Tuan was in a fit state to be transferred to the sanctuary with the main areas of concern being his very soft paws and his excessive weight, probably brought on by being fed the same feed as the pigs on the farm.

Senior Veterinary Surgeon Shaun Thomson said:

“The anaesthetic for him when it finally set in went very smoothly. The health concerns we’ve found for him are mainly his weight and his pads on his feet, which are very soft from standing on cage bars for so long. They’re probably going to get a little bit sore and may crack before they get better as they dry out and he starts to use them, but with all the medications and equipment in the rescue centre we can manage that no problem.”

Soon after the health check, Tuan was transferred to the transport cage and the team was on the road again.

Slowed only by a herd of local cattle in the roadway, Tuan arrived back at the sanctuary just after sunset at around 6pm. He was placed in quarantine where he will be treated to a 45-day programme of enrichment to stimulate his body and mind after 15 years of cruel, damaging confinement. Although he is a big bear he is not strong so building his muscle mass will be a top priority for the team.

Our Vietnam Vet and Bear Team Director Heidi Quine, who was there throughout the rescue, said:

“Now that he’s back at the sanctuary, his quarantine begins and really a lifetime of care. And we need your help to do that. It takes a lot of resources, a lot of time, a lot of love and a lot of money to rescue these bears and make them better. It can be up to 30 years of care. We can’t do it without you and I really want to thank you. Thank you for supporting our work and thank you for anything you can generously give to help Tuan and his rehabilitation. We’ll keep you updated every step of the way.”

Over the next few months we’ll be keeping a close eye on Tuan and giving him all of the necessary health checks and treatment as well as a carefully balanced diet to help him to recover from his ordeal that has come to an end, thanks to our Vietnam team and all of our supporters across the world.

Shaun added:

“He’ll get a full health check in the next couple of months. It’s been such a privilege bringing him here today. Thanks for helping us do the job we do and getting Tuan home.”

Our new bear’s namesake our Vietnam Director Tuan Benedixsen had the final word:

“My colleagues on the ground chose to name this gentle giant, our 210th rescued bear in Vietnam, after me. I am of course, humbled  to share my name with such a special bear.

“This is just the beginning. Tuan is deeply traumatised. After all, he’s known nothing but misery and abuse his entire life. I’m so grateful to the local authorities who have entrusted us with this bear, to the Vietnamese government for working with us hand in hand to end bear bile farming by 2022, and to you for supporting us in our work to give these bears the fresh start they so dearly deserve.”

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