JIGSAW – A BRIEF HISTORY OF A VERY LUCKY BEAR*

Jigsaw was one of 19 lucky moon bears rescued by AAF in Vietnam in January 2010. The bears were discovered cramped in tiny cells inside 40ft cargo containers on an illegal bear-bile farm in the southern province of Binh Duong, near Ho Chi Minh City. Left out in the open with no shade, these bears would have undoubtedly suffered enormously from the oppressive build-up of heat inside the metal containers and AAF’s Vietnam Director, Tuan, said “It would have been so hot and suffocating for the bears in those containers over the summer months. I doubt they would have survived.”

Here is a short video of the rescue, filmed by Asian Correspondent

BinhDuong Farm#2iBinhDuong_ontheroad

After a gruelling, three-day road-trip to safety at AAF’s Sanctuary, situated in the Tam Dao National Park outside of Hanoi, the bears were settled into their larger cages in the quarantine area to begin their health checks.

In Vietnam the method used to extract bile is undertaken with the assistance of an ultrasound machine, catheter and medicinal pump. The bears are drugged, restrained with ropes and (if the operator is unskilled) have their abdomens repeatedly jabbed with four-inch needles until the gall bladder is found. The process can lead to leakage of bile into the body and often results in a slow and agonizing death from peritonitis.

Sadly one of the bears had such horrific organ damage and multiple infections that he had to be euthanased.

When it was his turn for a health check, the vet team was concerned about Jigsaw’s condition: he seemed too lean and weighed only 93 kg. It did not take them long to discover he had a terribly damaged and infected tongue with patches of black dead flesh that the vet had to cut away, leaving him with a forked tongue.

Tongue & Vet compshot

Vet & bear management team with Jill Robinson (3rd from RHS).  JIGSAW’s tongue

Painkillers helped Jigsaw recover, enabling him to eat his soaked Mazuri (specially formulated dry bear food), scoff vegetables and slurp fruity shakes containing medicines. Bears are very stoic and no doubt the joy of being fed nutritious, tasty food kept Jigsaw chomping on until everything was finished.  With fresh browse (greenery) to make a bed out of (and eat), it didn’t take him long to respond to his new environment. Several days later his bear team reported a strong recovery.  Eighteen months on, Jigsaw now weighs 120kg and will eventually mature to be a bear of up to 200kg.

In May 2010, along with his bear pals Gus and Chocolate, Jigsaw moved from the quarantine building to his new inside bear den. Finally out of a cage and by now a very curious and playful bear Jigsaw has lovely silky fur and a spotty moon crescent.

In July 2010 after six months of rehabilitation designed to build his strength and health, Jigsaw was ready to undergo a full dental check and his castration surgery.  Although his age is not known, he is a young bear, so it was decided not to undertake the invasive surgery to remove his gall bladder as it is hoped that he may not yet have been subjected to very many bile extractions (almost all farmed bears need to have the gall bladder removed as they are terribly damaged). Of course his health will continue to be closely monitored.

From July to Christmas Jigsaw’s rehabilitation progressed in leaps and bounds. Caged bile-farm bears require lots of enrichment programs to develop limb co-ordination and strength, and to assist them in reacquiring lost skills including the most basic, such as foraging. This time was also used to socialise Jigsaw with other bears to determine who might be best suited as his long-term companions at the sanctuary.

Finally, the milestone day came when Jigsaw was transferred from his indoor den house to House 1 with its outside enclosures, where he now enjoys the company of other rescued bears. Once again – or perhaps for the first time – Jigsaw could feel the grass under his feet and the sun on his back!

JIGSAW exploring his new world

JIGSAW exploring his new world

One could believe this to be the “Happy Ending” to Jigsaw’s story and in many ways it is… But guess what! Jigsaw, as a rescued bile-farm bear is:

  • A growing, hungry bear
  • A curious and playful bear
  • A bear who needs ongoing veterinarian attention
  • Looking forward to a long and happy life in the care of his AAF team


And that’s why your help is so important to ensure his happy, healthy future!

To find out more about our Bear Care Club, click here!

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*A more comprehensive report about Jigsaw’s rescue can be found here: AAF rescue of 19 Mooon Bears from Binh Duong, Vietnam

Or download and read the specially prepared AAF book about Jigsaw’s Rescue Story : AAF-jigsaw book.pdf