Last week, a Hong Kong-based group of volunteers from Animals Asia made a trip into China to attempt to rescue 10 bears from a bile farm in Weihai in Shandong Province (Northwest China). The practice of bile-farming is thankfully losing popularity in China and 20 provinces are now bear farm free, but this incredibly cruel method of keeping bears incarcerated in tiny wire cages not big enough to stand in, with rusting metal catheters in their abdomens through which bile is extracted for use in traditional medicines, still exists in many areas.
With support from the Chinese government and local officials, Animals Asia is helping to stamp out remaining bear farms, and attempting to rehabilitate the moon bears (known as such for the splash of yellow on their stomach) who have suffered incredible physical torture and who are often deeply psychologically affected by their experiences. Animals Asia have thus far helped close down 42 bear farms, and rescued a total of 276 bears.
On the latest rescue mission, the Animals Asia team arrived to find a shabby and dilapidated building filled with rusting bear cages, many of which stood empty as a reminder that many more bears had previously been housed there. Entering the freezing room the bears were kept in, the veterinarians found that the bile farmers had very recently removed the spiked metal jackets that the bears are forced to wear to limit their movements, and roughly ripped out the catheters from the bears just before the vets arrived, so on-the-spot surgery was necessary on some of the bears to repair wounds. Of course, the difficulties and dangers that come with rescuing such huge and potentially dangerous animals (who have learned that anything connected with humans is going to be bad and painful) are enormous – all the bears had to be carefully tranquilized and anesthetized one by one as well as being fed a nutritious meal. Once all the bears were lifted into the trucks, the Animals Asia team set off on the three day journey to Sichuan Province to the Moon Bear Rescue Centre. Along the way, one of the most severely injured bears, Oliver, started showing signs of being in great distress and needed an emergency operation in a local hospital to remove his gall bladder.
If you would like to contribute to the Animal Asia’s Moon Bear Rescue Campaign by sponsoring a rescued bear for HK$352 per month or making a donation, details can be found here. You can also follow the work that Animals Asia do by becoming a fan of their Facebook page.
All photos © Animals Asia/Ali Bullock.