Tiny Moon Bear Cub Surrendered in Cambodia ('Rescue#189')

Moonbearcub1At around midnight on Wednesday 13th January Free the Bears team in Cambodia received the first bear to be rescued in 2016 - a tiny female Moon bear cub weighing just 2.8kg. The cub’s weight, locomotion and size indicate that she is likely to be less than 4-months-old, an age at which cubs are still heavily dependent on their mothers for survival. 

The fragile cub was purchased from a hunter by an elderly Khmer lady in Tatai district of Koh Kong province. This area lies within the southern slopes of the Cardamom Mountains, and is known to be natural habitat for both Moon bears and Sun bears.  The buying of wildlife, no matter the situation, is strongly discouraged by authorities and Free the Bears as this behaviour only serves to fuel the illegal trade. Alas, the cubs buyer, a practicing Buddhist, feared that the vulnerable ursine would be killed if she didn’t take immediate action. After buying the cub she contacted the local Forestry Administration office to arrange for handing her over the following day. The Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team then collected the tiny cub, together making the lengthy 7-hour journey to finally deliver her to Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre where she could receive specialised care from the Free the Bears team.

The arrival of the new cub, for now going by the name of ‘Cambodia Rescue 189’ pending her official naming, takes the total number of bears in care at Free the Bears Cambodian Bear Sanctuary up to 132 animals. While that’s a lot of hungry mouths to feed, 2015 was a surprisingly quiet year for bear rescues within Cambodia.

“This is our first rescue for 2016, following an unusually quiet year for bear rescues last year. In 2015, we had only three new bears coming into our Cambodian sanctuary, the lowest numbers since 1998. Conversely we had our busiest year on record in Laos with eight bears rescued last year - the highest number since we started working in partnership with the Laos government in 2003.”

Although Cambodian rescue numbers look promising, Matt also noted the unpredictable nature of the illegal wildlife trade.

“If we look at it positively, we can hope that this lower number of bear rescues is the result of improved protection and law enforcement in Cambodia last year. However it could also have a dark side suggesting that numbers of bears in the wild have plummeted to low levels that make hunting of bears harder for poachers. Of course we’d like to think that it is the former situation and not the latter, we’ll most certainly be keeping a close eye on the situation starting with our nationwide wild bear surveys which will commence next month.”

‘Rescue 189’ is now settling into Free the Bears dedicated Cub Nursery under the watchful eye of Mr Heng and the Cub Care team. The cub will be kept in the Quarantine Area for a minimum of 3-months to allow her to grow and develop under specialised care.



‘Rescue 189’ doesn’t appear to have any physical injuries, though she was considerably dehydrated. Based on her teeth, locomotion and malnourished appearance, it is believed that the cub is in fact older than her body weight would suggest, perhaps closer to 4-months-old. This is likely the result of being fed a poor diet while in the hands of the poacher as he tried to sell her. The team also found a couple of ticks on the cub, a sign that she had been away from her mother for some time. Bear cubs rely on nourishing milk from their mothers in the wild and so providing the new arrival with a specialised diet is paramount to her survival.


Support is needed to continue to provide for the tiniest victims of the illegal wildlife trade by donating or buying a Cub Care Kit from Free the Bears Virtual Gift Range. Click here to make your purchase and help to save a fragile little life.


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