years ago this April, Jill Robinson first walked onto a bear bile farm. On that day in April 1993, Jill could have walked away, but she chose to act and do what she could. Today, you also have a choice. If everyone reading this donated just US$20, it would pay for the care of over 150 bears at our China sanctuary for a full year. Please help us celebrate 20 years of progress. Donate US$20 today (or whatever you can afford).
Rescued bears receive their first health-check and den names
Friday morning saw the start of the assessment process. Each bear needs to be anaethetised and removed from the cargo container cells, to undergo an initial health check and general examination.
One at a time, the bears are darted by Veterinary Director, Heather Bacon, while still in their cells. Once safely asleep, they are carefully lifted out for their health-check, after which they are transferred to transport cages to recover from the anaesthetic.
The health-checks are normally conducted within the space of an hour and allow the veterinary team to make a full assessment of the bears' injuries and prioritise the bears for what could be several hours of surgery to repair their wounds. During the health-check – where the veterinary team use ultrasound to check the bear's abdomen and assess the problems related to method of bile extraction – blood is taken, teeth are examined, ears are cleaned, claws are cut, and the bears are ear-tagged and finally sprayed to protect them against parasites.
Upon waking, a bigger recovery cage is ready and waiting – hooked up to the transport cage, full of comfortable and inviting browse to entice the bears to walk in and settle down.
Vet Kirsty, Heather and vet nurse Wendy check to see that the bear is fully asleep.
Placed gently on tarpaulin, the bear is ready to be carried to the quarantine area for a health check.
The wet weather from Thursday persisted, making the conditions for the vet and bear teams much harder to work in. Six health checks were done today by vets Heather and Kirsty and vet nurse Wendy. Again this morning, the bears seemed in good spirits and, as there didn’t appear to be any urgent medical cases among the group of 19, the vet team started the health checks with the first container that came in.
First up was Italia, now sponsored and permanently named by our Italian office. She is a beautiful young bear aged between two and five years of age. She was in good condition and slept for what seemed like a long time after her health check, reluctant to wake up despite our gentle prodding.
Next was "Henry" - also a young boy aged between two and five. He had a bloated stomach which initially caused some concern but fortunately, just turned out to be a whole lot of gas! Aside from that, he is in good condition.
Heather, Kirsty and Wendy discuss Henry’s condition and prepare for his ultrasound.
The third bear was a lovely older girl named “Grace". She is almost blind but Heather is optimistic that eye surgery will help to improve her sight. She was in a container which did not have good drainage so she was dirty and quite pungent – poor girl, not her fault! Being visually impaired, she was naturally the most timid of the group so far and was very hesitant to move into her recovery cage when she woke up later. It took her quite a while to leave the smaller transport cage where, with no sense of direction, she was facing the wrong way entirely for quite some time. But she got there eventually and settled down into the security of her bedding.
Cutting back long-overgrown nails is part of the first health check.
The fourth bear was “Jeanie”, another young, beautiful girl. All went well with her health check and she appears to be in good condition.
The fifth health-check was a bear named “Chocolate”, so called because he has a chocolate-coloured nose and loved being fed chocolate sauce – a very rare treat indeed. Chocolate is another young, handsome bear, in fairly good condition.
Finally today was “Gus”, a young male. He’s a bit on the skinny side now, but seems destined to become a favourite and is definitely going to break some hearts with his perfectly-shaped crescent.
Gus sports his newly shaved abdomen, necessary to check the bile drainage area.
So far, so good. Upon initial examination, all the bears appear to be in relatively good health and the transitions into their recovery cages – where they will spend the next 45 days in comfortable quarantine – went smoothly.
The health-checks were scheduled to continue over the weekend, until all 19 bears have been assessed and removed at last from their appalling cells, into the comfort of the rescue centre on the next leg of their journey to freedom.
STOP PRESS - ONE BEAR LOST While we are compiling the updates on the health checks carried out this weekend, we are very sorry to have to report that, on Sunday, we sadly lost one of these beautiful bears. "Raspberry" worried us instantly with a weeping hole in his abdomen, and when the vet team took him into surgery they discovered a mass of infected, scarred and rotting organs. This was like nothing the appalled vets had ever seen and they were amazed Raspberry was even still alive. Read about the sad decision to put him out of his pain and the post mortem results here.