Five Moon Bear Cubs Rescued in One Day
In Southeast Asia, cubs are sometimes captured for bile or meat — but these babies got out, thanks to a grandmother who cares for the bears
81-year-old Mary Hutton was already a grandmother in 1993, when she watched a television segment about “bile bears.” The segment showed Asiatic Black bears (also known as Moon bears) who were captured and kept in tiny cages to be milked for their bile, which is used in some traditional medicines. The very next day, Hutton was collecting signatures to “free the bears,” and two years later she registered Free the Bears Fund as a non-profit in Australia.
The organization now cares for hundreds of bears rescued from illegal bile and meat trades, with three bear sanctuaries in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. They work with the local governments to raid poachers and rescue bears who have been illegally captured.
But bear cubs usually came one or two at a time — the organization had never rescued five cubs in one day… until last month.
On August 19, the rescuers were able to rescue five cubs from three different locations across Laos. The raid started with two three-month-olds being kept at a paper factory and fed a diet of just plain rice. While the rescuers were there working with local authorities, they were told of another three bears nearby — and so they went back to work, rescuing two seven-month-olds kept at a cassava plantation, and a nine-month-old cub kept at a private home.
Hutton described the rescue as “another triumph for the bear species” — and in no small part those triumphs are thanks to her passion for the bears. Bear bile farming is now illegal in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, but hundreds of bears remain in captivity. These lucky cubs are unlikely to be able to be released to the wild, but they will have a chance to live the rest of their lives with other bears and room to roam.
The work that organizations like Free the Bears do to save animals from exploitation can be exhausting and feel endless, but these five little cubs are a reminder that their lives are worth it.