Bear cubs rescued in emergency mission

LEFT: A moon bear cub before the Laos rescue. TOP RIGHT: Dr Mary Hutton with the Perth zoo bears zookeepers, BOTTOM RIGHT: Perth Zoo's sun bear Bopha.
LEFT: A moon bear cub before the Laos rescue. TOP RIGHT: Dr Mary Hutton with the Perth zoo bears zookeepers, BOTTOM RIGHT: Perth Zoo's sun bear Bopha.

FIVE bear cubs were rescued from malnourishment in Laos in the largest rescue mission conducted by a Perth-based non-profit organisation.

Free the Bears Fund founder Mary Hutton was alerted to reports of illegal activities involving five bear cubs from the government.

“We originally were told there were two Asiatic moon bears to be rescued up in the North West of Laos,” she said.

“They were in very poor health, they’ve only been fed on rice, pretty well malnourished.”

Some of the bear cubs before the rescue in Laos. Picture: Supplied.

As the team began their mission to rescue the two bears, they were told of another three bear cubs in the area being ill-treated leading to three rescue missions conducted on August 19.

Two bear cubs were rescued from a bamboo paper factory, two bears from a cassava plantation and a nine-month-old bear from an owner who kept him illegally.

“The first cubs were only about three months old,” Dr Hutton said.

“They were all in the same area as the other two moon bears, who were about seven months old.

“The owner wasn’t really too happy to hand them over but we took the authorities with us, the government officials and the police.”

Dr Hutton said the five rescued bear cubs were being expertly cared for at the Luang Prabang Sanctuary in Laos but were unlikely to be released back to the wild.

“Sadly, they’ll never go back to the wild mainly because the poaching is still there,” she said.

“The babies, as cubs, will be reliant on man for food and because of that, when we release them when they’re older, they might not know how to survive.”

After 25 years of work with Free the Bears Fund, Dr Hutton said each rescue was a triumph in increasing the population of bears.

Dr Mary Hutton with Perth Zoo’s sun bear Bopha. Picture: Nadia Budihardjo

Dr Hutton returned to the Sun Bear exhibit at Perth Zoo yesterday, to greet the two sun bears who were rescued by Free the Bears before coming to the zoo.

“Sometimes I think, my God, what would happen if we weren’t there,” she said.

“Whether we rescue a couple of bears or five bears, or even how many bears we have rescued, we get to save lives.”

Free the Bears will be hosting an event to mark the 10 years since the end of the illegal dancing bears trade in India.