Bear Ben in a tiny cage

Dec 2019

Ninh Binh

Rescue Bear Ben

He suffered almost three decades in a tiny, filthy cage


Imagine living your whole life in a small cage of 4m², it’s almost impossible, right?

Sadly, this has been the hard reality of bear Ben. Ever since he was a little cub, the Asiatic black bear has been looking at the two concrete walls surrounding his cold and iron cage - not one year, not two years, but almost 30 long years.

Our team rushed to Son La province in Vietnam to help the Asiatic black bear Ben. We were able to begin our rescue mission right away, conducting urgent medical checks on him. Our initial apprehensions were confirmed - he is underweight, and an ultrasound of his organs shows that his gallbladder is chronically inflamed. We are almost certain that Ben was abused for his bile. One of his teeth is also broken after many torturous years of biting his metal cage bars.

3rd December 2019: After a 200km journey across Vietnam, bear Ben can begin his new life at our BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh. There is no doubt Ben will need some time to settle in and rest after his journey and huge changes. In quarantine he will be monitored closely by our veterinarians and caretakers and soon, when Ben is feeling more relaxed, a more thorough health check will be carried out to ensure we know the extent of Ben’s health condition and get him on the road to recovery! We can’t wait to see his progress at our sanctuary. Ben will no longer be confined to bars and will finally be able to live in a species-appropriate environment! 

Immediately after the rescue he was hungry and tasted pumpkin, sweet potatoes and bananas as well as a delicious rice soup. We hope that he will continue to have such a great appetite and gain weight!

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Update January 2020

Ben is still kept in the bear house as it is challenging for our team to build up a relationship with him. At present, Bens only interest is food and nothing else. He gained 6 kg since he is in BEAR SANCTUARY Ninh Binh. As soon as our bear keepers develop a closer bond to him – which is necessary to release him to the outdoor enclosure to call him back to the bear house – Ben will be released as well. This could take some more time.

He is still exploring his new life with caution and of course his greatest interest, food! 

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Update February 2020

Ben has been released from the bear house to the outside enclosure and he really enjoys being outside. It took him a while, but now he also goes in the pool and loves it. 

Unfortunately, Ben shows stereotyping behaviour of many rescued captive bears, once he has finished eating – he still eats a lot and he gets much more food than other bears already – he paces repeatedly. Our bear team are doing positive reinforcement training with him and he also gets environmental enrichment. So far, Ben does not pay any attention to the other bears, and the team will try to integrate him with other bears soon.

A very important part of animal care is ‘environmental enrichment’, which is necessary for optimal physical and psychological well-being of our rescued bears.  Enrichment is the provision of environmental stimuli to encourage the expression of bears natural behaviors, allowing choice and increased control over their environment, preventing boredom and reducing stress.

Update May 2020

Since Ben's rescue, he has gained 30 kg and is looking much healthier. He is still really enjoying his food, and eats almost double the food as the other bears consume! Despite his love for food, his caregivers have seen improvements in his overall behaviour, where before he was so obsessive about eating he would show no interest in anything else such as his enrichment or the other bears. Now Ben is showing much more curiosity towards the caregivers and is interacting with his enrichment within his enclosure. Currently, Ben is in the late bear Long's enclosure, however, there are plans to move some of the bears around so that they can be better integrated together - stay tuned for updates for when this happens!

Ben enjoying his enrichment


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