Veterinary Intervention for Rescued Bears


A team of vets from Vietnam, Cambodia, Scotland and Australia came together at the Free the Bears Cat Tien Bear Sanctuary recently to conduct full health checks on almost all of the 35 moon and sun bears currently resident at the sanctuary. This important work, supported by Welttierschutzgesellschaft E.V. (WTG), was undertaken in anticipation of the eventual move of these bears to a new world-class sanctuary within Cat Tien National Park, the construction of which we hope will soon begin. Following their check-ups, a veterinary management plan will now be developed for each bear which will help us ensure their health needs are considered when they move to their new home.


We were privileged to have the help of specialist wildlife surgeon Dr Romain Pizzi from the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, experienced bear veterinarian Srey Yoeurn from Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre in Cambodia, resident Cat Tien National Park vet Nguyen The Viet, and vet nurse Alicia Mattner from Noah’s Crossing Veterinary Clinic in South Australia, Free the Bears Veterinary Advisor, Kirsty Officer, was onsite to coordinate the intense schedule of health checks. The keeping staff at the Cat Tien Bear Sanctuary worked around-the-clock to support the vet team and to ensure there was minimal disruption to the normal routines of the bears. With each bear having to be carried by stretcher to the clinic, and the biggest weighing in at almost 160kg, it was all hands-on-deck for the nine days it took to perform all the checks. Each bear underwent a full general anaesthetic, thorough clinical examination, blood tests, dental check, and ultrasound examination, as well as having any specific needs addressed. A number of health problems were identified such as fractured teeth, eye issues, gall bladder and liver changes, arthritis, and skin disease. Gastroscopy was used to investigate a case of chronic vomiting, and oral surgery was performed on a bear with chronic oro-nasal fistulation as a result of severe dental disease. Any non-urgent cases have been flagged for further intervention or treatment once we are better equipped in the new sanctuary.

Almost all the chronic health problems we see in bears are a result of being taken from wild and kept in inappropriate conditions before their rescue. Free the Bears is committed to protecting bears in the wild and reducing their exploitation.  We are also committed to improving the ongoing health and wellbeing of the bears in our care, through building sustainable veterinary programmes at each of our sanctuaries.

You can help support these veterinary programmes by donating the cost of a health check for a rescued bear by clicking here and purchasing a virtual gift.