Moon Bear


A moon bear scratching his back on a tree


On July 4th we went to Animals Asia’s China Bear Rescue Center in Chengdu. This sanctuary was the first in the world. It was created as a rescue for bears involved in the bear bile farming industry. The majority of bears are Asiatic black bears, also known as moon bears. They are called moon bears because the white fur on their chest resembles a crescent moon.Currently there are 123 moon bears at this rescue center.They can accommodate up to 500 bears. The rescue center currently has 4 brown bears as well.


The rescue center was incredible. The animals have amazing enclosures, and are free to roam around. They try to make it as close to the wild as possible. The center also has enrichment toys for the bears. They have pipes that put dog food inside and  then smear jelly on the IMG_2338outside so the bears will lick the jelly and then smell the dog food to get it out. They hide dog food all of the enclosures too; in holes in trees, in tires, and other various places. This is so the animal can “hunt” for their food.The center even designed a special area because of one of the bears, Rupert. Rupert suffered from memory loss and he would often forget that the fence has an electrical charge, because of this he touched the fence multiple times. Animals Asia decided it would be best to design an enclosure for the animals who have significant mental and physical disabilities. I thought it was incredible that the center addressed that some of the bears have severe mental trauma after what they have experienced. It would be asinine to think differently, but I am thankful there are people in the world that take the mental health of animals seriously.


Crush Cage

Now for the hard part, explaining the bear bile process. Bear bile has proven medicinal properties, this has led to the development of bear bile farms. Farmers can have only 1-2 bears all the way up to 1,000-2,000. The methods for collecting the bear bile are horrific. The bear is held in a metal crush cage, one in which they cannot move, for the majority of their lives. Moon bears can live 30-35 years. Some bears are forced to wear a metal jacket. It wraps around their ribs and has a pole that runs from its chest to right under the bears chin. This is to prevent the bear from licking the open wound where the catheter is placed. The catheter is placed inside the bears stomachs, in the gallbladder. It is used to constantly drain the bile from the bear.


Metal Jacket




The act of bear bile farming is incredibly inhumane. These poor bears do not get to experience life outside of a crush cage or a metal jacket. Some of the bears have their teeth and claws removed to make the practice safe for the farmers. It is incredibly sad to learn that this is a legal practice in China. I’m glad organizations like Animals Asia exist so bears can have a chance at a real life after experiencing such horrific events. The bears deserve to have a safe space to roam and just be bears.


One of the enclosures

There is an area at the Rescue Center that is for the bears who have passed away. Each bear gets a block with their name, the date they were rescued, and the date the died carved into it. It was very emotional to see that some of the bears died in the same month they were rescued. It is awful that these beautiful creatures are being treated so horrendously, and when they finally are rescued they do not survive much longer. It breaks my heart. I am very thankful for compassionate people who fight to protect animals.


Garden of Hope & Sorrow, Memorial for bears who have passed.


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