Free the Bears currently cares for the world’s largest group of Sun bears, in fact there are more Sun bears living at the Cambodian sanctuary than there are in all of the zoos in Europe and Australia combined. Over the past three generations, sun bear populations have declined by 30%. It is predicted that in the next 30 years, this trend will continue. In simple terms, the wild population of Sun bears is predicted to decline by at least 30% during the lifetime of a Sun bear cub arriving at the Cambodian sanctuary today! No-one knows how many Sun bears remain in the wild, but 30% of the global population certainly represents a great deal of suffering as bears are hunted or even starved to death due to loss of habitat. With these facts, it shows how important the work of Free the Bears really is, and with 4 new arrivals at the Cambodian sanctuary, how funds can really make a difference.

The first of the four new arrivals was a little female, now named ‘Hope’, who was confiscated by local forestry administration officers. On arrival, she weighed around 4kg and was around 2-3 months old. She seems to have settled into the new cub nursery well, thriving under the watchful eye of Mr Heng.

The next two arrivals were not so easy, with both giving the team many sleepless nights, due to their poor health upon arrival. Rescue 171 was rescued from a market in Kompong Speu province. This little male weighed just under 3kg. With round the clock care during the weeks after his rescue, staff struggled to keep him alive. Fortunately for staff this little bear seemed to be a fighter and never gave up. He’s now recently been mixed with rescue 172, a slightly bigger female cub, who was discovered in the most bizarre of circumstances in Phnom Penh. This little cub was extremely bloated, probably down to the poor diet she received from her captors. She required several days of intensive care when she first arrived. She now is doing well and adapting to life with her newly adopted (and mildly annoying) little brother!

The last new arrival was brought to the sanctuary after a tip-off was received by a tourist travelling on a public bus from north-eastern Cambodia, who saw a cub tied up in a garden by the side of a road. In time, all four of these cubs will be integrated into a new nursery group, making the need for further housing at the sanctuary all the more urgent.

In between caring for the bears at the sanctuary, the team have been kept busy preparing for their 15th anniversary, and hosting visits by specialist vet teams from overseas. Thirteen of their male sun bears (plus Tom-tom the hybrid Sun/Moon bear) had full reproductive health examinations, from the Noahs Crossing Veterinary Clinic from South Australia. Dr Claudia Hartley, a veterinary ophthalmology specialist from the Animal Health Trust in the UK, also visited the sanctuary and checked on the bears that have sight issues. Claudia has already restored the vision of a number of rescued bears housed at sanctuaries in India, Vietnam and China. The team are excited to see if she may be able to work her magic on some of their bears (including the volunteer’s favourite, Kong), when she returns with her team next year.

Picture of rescue 172 © Free the Bears.

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