Working to Save Moon Bears in China
In 1996, The Panyu Bear Sanctuary, located in Guangdong Province, China, was established to house nine bears rescued from a bear bile farm. This was the first rescue center of its kind, and signifies the initiation of a campaign to end bear bile farming in China.
Historically, bear bile was used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in very small amounts as a supplement. However, more than 50 herbs are used today to treat the same ailments that benefit from bear bile formerly, many of them to greater effect. IFAW surveys in China (1989, 1990) have found over 80% of the Chinese consumers would reject bear bile on cruelty grounds and a significant number of TCM practitioners have moved away from prescribing bear bile on safety and quality grounds.
Currently there are five bears still living at the sanctuary - Xie Sheung, Digger, Elizabeth, Chu Chu and Hong. At the time of their rescue by IFAW, the bears were emaciated, stressed beyond endurance, riddled with parasites, draining pus and pain from the gall bladder.
Over the next few days we will be bringing you the stories of these five bears...saved from a life of torture and now living in a safe and healthy environment for the rest of their lives.
Let me introduce you to Xie Sheung.
Xie Sheung is our big, gentle boy, nearly 200kg of glossy gorgeousness. He moves slowly and deliberately but seems always to be in the right place at the right moment when the honey bottle appears. When we are in the dens working with the bears, he sits with his elbow propped on the ledge, chin on his great paw, for all the world a heap of relaxation and nonchalance. Except that the drowsy appearance of his eyelids cannot disguise his alertness to the position of the treat bowl. He accepts a bit of apple, a grape, an orange, a lick of yoghurt with the same slow, gentle care with which he moves his great body. And just when the veterinarian begins to worry about his slowness, he is found in a full-scale wrestling match with Hong or Chu Chu or with both of them at once.
Xie Sheung weighed only 70kg when he was rescued from the bile farm, nearly just a third of what he is now. His joints were thickened and frozen from being cramped into a tiny bear cage for so many years. It took months of free movement in the grassy enclosure at the sanctuary before he could fully extend his limbs. He bears a large, curved scar on his right hip from the exit wound of his catheter. And his teeth are suffering the early degeneration typical of bile farm bears: teeth broken from chewing on cage bars in desperate agony, enamel compromised by many years of bad and insufficient food. But our Xie Sheung is his full lovely size now and his teeth are cared for by his veterinary team. Watching him lie in wait for a banana or a gush of honey, or amble through the thick grass with all the time in the world, one is suffused with a feeling of peace.
Come back tomorrow to learn about Digger, our smallest bear.