Moon bears are starved and locked in cramped cages in Chinese “farms” while their bile is harvested to be used in tonic, shampoos, toothpastes and eye drops. When British vet Claudia Hartley first met these endangered bears — named “moon bears” for the crescent-shaped yellow shock of fur across their chest — not one of them could see.
These bears had all gone blind through cataracts caused by the ill-treatment. Claudia then became the first vet ever to perform a cataract surgery on a moon bear. And yet, she can only do so much. It is believed that there are about 20,000 still trapped on farms. Claudia has so far brought back the sight of eight bears and now she is in southeast Asia to perform the surgery on more. She says:
Nothing could have prepared me for that first visit. I’d read up about the bear bile trade and thought I’d be OK. But when I saw the size of the cages they’d been kept in while at the bile farms — the charity had kept some from when the bears came in — I climbed into one and it was tiny, even for me — I wept. Meeting the bears and hearing about their stories was so emotional, I think I cried every day. One, called Oliver, was crippled from spending 30 years crammed into a tiny cage.
Then there was Mouse who came in so skeletal, you could see the bones sticking out of her feet. She had to be euthanised on the spot. To see something like that, to know she’d been brought to safety but it was just too late, was heartbreaking.
What can I say. Just see the images that follow for more details. (Scroll down for the video.)
1. Snoopy the bear, with his distinctive Mickey Mouse ears, plays happily in the enclosure he shares with two other moon bears at the sanctuary in Chengdu, China.
2. Snoopy was cut and injured when he arrived at the bear sanctuary. The animals are either bred in captivity or captured and kept in tiny ‘crush cages’, built to be the same size as the bear.
3. Claudia Hartley, pictured examining this bear’s eye, became the first vet ever to perform cataract surgery on a moon bear. She has now helped give eight bears back their sight.
4. A bear looks playfully behind from behind a tree at the sanctuary. Animals Asia is buying up all of the licences for bear bile farms.
5. Snoopy was one of the bears that had gone blind through cataracts caused by their ill-treatment while in captivity for bile harvesting. He now lives happily at the Chengdu sanctuary.
6. Claudia Hartley takes retinal photographs of a bear with veterinary nurse Sarah Blachard, right, and veterinary ophthalmologist Rachael Grundon before performing cataract surgery.
7. Snoopy arriving at the sanctuary from the farm where he lived in a tinycage and developed an infection that caused him to lose his sight.
8. Claudia Hartley, pictured in light blue, checks the health of one of the bears in China, which is the largest producer of bear bile in the world.
9. Snoopy at the sanctuary. Bile is harvested by the farmer who uses crude drugs to sedate the creature then cuts a hole through the skin, the stomach wall, all the stomach muscles to the gallbladder.
10. Claudia, pictured, is an expert in removing cataracts in dogs, cats and horses, but she and her fellow vet David Donaldson, had never attempted to do so on a bear before.
11. A moon bear enjoys the warmth of the sun while on a climbing frame in his enclosure. It is thought there are still 20,000 bears still trapped in cruel bile farms.
12. ‘It is still heartbreaking’: Claudia, pictured examining a bear in 2011, got to know of the work done by Animals Asia, a charity set up by Briton Jill Robinson in 1998 to rescue bile bears in the region, through a colleague.
13. Two of the bears rescued from the unspeakably cruel bear bile trade. They are kept locked in tiny cages for years while the product of their gallbladder is harvested to be used in traditional Chinese medicine.
14. One of the bears relaxes in the water at the sanctuary. Once the animals have their sight, they can go into an enclosure with a pool — it is too dangerous for them otherwise.
15. Around two to three weeks after an operation, the bears have recovered enough to go outside again and finally see where they’ve been playing for months or years.
16. Students look on as Claudia Hartley performs surgery on a bear. She said she would not complain if she was needed in China again, but said her time there was emotionally challenging.
And here is the video:
Source: The Mail Online.
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