Animals Asiatic bears meet and play for the first time in Vietnam

The first meeting between Armstrong and Buzz (Credit: @AnimalsAsia)

The encounter, first a slow and careful sniff, then an ever more direct approach, and finally a joyful and continuous rubbing, is almost touching. Armstrong and Buzz for twenty years they shared a long solitude on a Vietnamese bile farm without ever coming into direct contact, each locked in his own cage, each alone waiting for the daily collection of bile, which was sold at a high price in the traditional Chinese medicine market.

Yet, despite not even touching each other, Buzz and Armstrong “knew” each other through smell and perhaps some kind of mutual empathy.

For the first two months, a brand new a the sanctuary has just been inaugurated animals of Asia in Vietnamin the national park Bach Ma, the end of December was a time of novelty, discovery, emotions and joy. After years and years of forced solitude and lack of external stimuli, a very limited and repetitive diet, no contact with grass and earth and from the bars of the observation cage or a piece of sky for both of them to find companionship That someone else is your own kind to relate to you want to relate, it must have been a truly incredible moment.

Armstrong, one of three moon bears, arrived at Animals Asia’s new sanctuary in Vietnam at Bach Ma (Credit: @Animals Asia)

Armstrong, more lively and curious, did not stop sniffing his new companion for a moment. Buzz, a little more reluctantly he let him do it for minutes. For both of them, the joy of fighting, of biting each other’s cheeks and paws, of touching each other’s bodies, which have not yet fully recovered from the signs of time spent in a cage and the diseases caused by twenty years of imprisonment. Q

when Armstrong also tried to approach Apollo, the latest arrival from Hai Duong province, where she had been a prisoner since 2002, faced a refusal, firm but not violent: Apollo said no with one paw raised, making it clear that she was not yet ready for a close encounter with anyone. . Armstrong showed his understanding and turned around.

But The Three Musketeers by Bach Ma they can now truly consider themselves a small pack of moon bears. The first to inhabit the new sanctuary, which Animals Asia is still finishing, but is already ready, including staff, to welcome the last 300 moon bears, already registered in the now illegal bile farms, but still present in the country.

Apollo, the third bear on the moon to join Armstrong and Buzz (Credit: @Animals Asia)

“The construction of the second sanctuary was necessary because it was the first recovery center Tam Dao it has reached its maximum capacity (around 200 bears) and would not be able to accommodate any more,” explained the organization during the opening ceremony of the center, which is very modern and equipped with veterinary equipment, a quarantine area, a training building and the education of visitor groups, a botanical garden with herbal alternatives to bear bile and of course structures built for bears. “Our bears are doing great and together they are ‘learning’ to be bears, but above all to face all the things they never had to deal with in their lives in captivity, starting with the biggest spaces.”

Buzz, second only to Bach Ma (Credit: @Animals Asia)

Armstrong and Buzz were already moved to their new ones at the end of November.artificial denssmall rooms of limited dimensions precisely so that they are not frightened by unusual spaces, but are welcoming straw beds, immediately after the first veterinary inspection. “Even in the ‘dens’ the experiences multiply, teach the bears to make a bed with branches, get used to foraging (behavior taught to them in nature by their mother and reinforced by experience, but not acquired by caged bears), but also to look up at structures made of pieces of bamboo and branches.”

An adaptation process that requires time and in which we must not force the bears, but simply let them freely discover small innovations day by day that will characterize their lives from that moment on. “Bears have a new experience every day: banana leavesjute bag, hammock for sleepingpieces of bamboo trunks filled with jam or peanut butter teach them to eat through cracks or even flat tires and different foods such as fruit, vegetables, yogurt, jams, honey, peanut butter to understand what flavors they prefer.”

Apollo, Armstrong and Buzz outside the den where they now live (credits@AnimalsAsia)

And then it’s finally here the arrival of water in the life of new guests, an essential element for every moon bear that they had practically lost their memory of during their long years of captivity. “Bears are very fond of water, which is almost always denied them in captivity. In our videos, you can often see the operators, our bear handlers, giving them a shower – it calms them down and calms them down.”

PUSH fortyEverything went smoothly for the two bears: they were slowly moved to larger spaces, where they adapted to the different sounds and new smells coming from the open spaces. However, in the case of Apollo, several additional measures had to be taken. “Things were a bit more complicated with her because she had been isolated and deprived of any experience or contact with people other than her owner for too long.

The bear is still in the cage from which it was freed in November (Credit: @Animals Asia)

Already during the trip, Apollo showed clear signs of stress and stereotyped behavior towards people he did not know, sounds, different places – they explain – Fortunately she kept her appetite and the food was able to calm her until she arrived at Bach Ma’s shrine, where she was quarantined and guaranteed continuity with the people watching her, precisely to minimize the stress of the changes. Even meeting (in quarantine) another bear, Buzz, upset her a lot because Apollo didn’t remember his own kind.”

Armstrong unwraps one of the Christmas gifts prepared by staff to provide environmental enrichment for the three bears (Credit: @Animals Asia)

Once we got used to the new dens, it was time for the three bears also start exploring the outer part of the shrine: the grass, the trees, the games and all the smells and sounds of the national park are the new landscape that Armstrong, Buzz and Apollo are getting used to and learning their new life as bears in an environment very similar to the one they would have lived in if they had always been single. «The first steps outside are always a little scary – says Bach Ma. – Our operators “help” the bears by tempting them with treats and bites of their favorite food, but it often happens that the bears do not come out. for the first time – and often not even the following ones.” All this serves to support the integration of the bears into their new environment.

“Of course, this is all done with plenty of ‘help’ from the bear keepers, who are always trying to come up with new experiences to entice the bears to sniff, explore, taste and problem solve. Such as Christmas presents, which make the bears face slightly more difficult problems, such as opening the item to eat the contents.’

Soon it will be time for the three to make way for the new arrivals. There isn’t much time left as a new rescue is expected on Friday 12th January, so new tenants are on the way. “We are going to rescue three bears in really bad conditions, held in a water park Cu Chi on Ho Chi Minh City. They are thin, emaciated, with large areas without hair, we don’t know how old they are, what their past is, whether they have been subjected to bile collection – we only know that after years of awareness campaigns, the park has decided to close and relocate the animals.” It will be three days before they three Cu Chi bears safe in the Bach Ma sanctuary, and then they too will have time and opportunity to get used to a new life.

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