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Moon Bear, Sun Bear

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Sun Bear at Tam Dao Sanctuary

Last Friday was spent in the misty hills an hour and a half outside of Hanoi. It can be hard to imagine they exist so close to to the city, especially since they’re often hidden behind a curtain of pollution, but if you take a drive to the north there they are, small steep hills rising steeply out of the flats of the Red River Delta. The change in environment is rapid. With one swift turn the road turns off the straight flat highway and winds upwards, concealing the agricultural fields and industrial areas behind steep forested hills.

Moon Bears at Tam Dao

Moon Bears at Tam Dao

I was there to visit Animals Asia’s Tam Dao Bear Sanctuary, a veterinary hospital and rehabilitation center that takes in Moon and Sun bears which have been kept in captivity for decades so bile can be extracted from their stomachs. I’m not going to dwell on this distressing treatment of animals for a product that is not only worthless but can also cause serious harm to those who use it but if you’re interested in learning more, please click here.  What I did want to share was a few photos of these gorgeous, charming bears which are now able to live in the peace and relative freedom that the reserve allows them. I was hesitant to visit the Sanctuary as I expected horrible scenes of distressed bears in cages but it was fun to watch the recovered bears play in the gardens that are built for them. Unfortunately the bears cannot be released into the wild due to physical and psychological problems, as well as the absence of a safe place to release them.

Moon bears (Asiatic black bears) are named for the white moon shaped crescent on their chest. Each bear has a unique crescent and, as I came to witness, a unique personality. Sun bears a smaller with a shiny black coat and a yellow crescent and nose, they also have a ridiculously long tongue.

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Sun Bears playing

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Moon bear eating a carrot

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Finally , I just want to say that we feel very lucky that Typhoon Haiyan bypassed us last weekend and our thoughts are with all the people in the Philippines who have lost friends, family and houses. However, I also want to acknowledge all the people who have been victims of the recent flooding in central Vietnam, current reports estimate that approximately 30 people have died with 100,000 houses submerged and  over 80,000 displaced.