Zebedee, moon bear rescued from bile farm, to receive face surgery in Vietnam

By Pham Huong   May 26, 2017 | 05:45 pm PT
The bear has a hole in his nasal cavity sustained during an escape attempt that makes him prone to pneumonia and bronchitis.

A moon bear in central Vietnam will be receiving specialist treatment on Monday from an American vet who will attempt to fix a mouth deformity the animal has had since it was a cub.

Zebedee the bear was rescued from a bile farm in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue in 2009 by animal welfare charity Animals Asia. However, an injury he sustained while trying to escape as a cub had left him with a hole connecting his mouth with his nasal cavity, making him more prone to pneumonia and bronchitis


Zebedee will receive surgery to fix the mouth deformity that makes him susceptible to pneumonia and bronchitis. Photo courtesy of Animals Asia

During his 15 years on the bile farm, Zebedee was locked in an iron cage stuck in a corner so dark that his rescuers were unable to spot him at first, said Tuan Bendixsen, Animals Asia's chief representative in Vietnam.

“The terrible diet ruined Zebedee's teeth. During the first medical check, doctors had to remove 12 teeth. Later, during an operation to remove his severely damaged gall bladder, vets even found a toothpick in Zebedee's stomach,” he recalled.

Thanks to proper care from foreign vets, Zebedee is enjoying a happy life with 20 other bears in a semi-natural enclosure. He often lies down and bathes in the sunlight, a luxury he was not afforded during his time in the cage.


Zebedee plays with another bear in their semi-natural enclosure. Photo courtesy of Animals Asia.

In October 2016, Zebedee's physician Mandala Hunter discovered he was coughing and having difficulty breathing. X-rays showed that he had contracted both pneumonia and bronchitis. While Zebedee has been receiving medication, surgery is the only chance of permanently fixing the problem.

To help Zebedee, Animals Asia invited Dr. Alane Kosanovich Cahalane, a pioneer in this field, to help him and other sick bears at the sanctuary. Dr. Cahalane, CEO of Hong Kong's Veterinary Specialty Hospital, is a board-certified specialist in small animal surgery.

In 2015, she successfully fixed the broken humerus of a moon bear in China, and thanks to her help, Claudia the bear can finally walk again.

Animals Asia has rescued almost 600 bears, including 177 in Vietnam. Most of the rescued animals were confined to small cages and regularly had their bile extracted for use in traditional medicine.

In 2005, bear bile farming in Vietnam peaked with over 4,000 bears in captivity, but the numbers have since dwindled to around 1,000 now as the bears have either been rescued or died, Animals Asia said.

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