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Moon Bear Monday: Individuality Is The Spice Of Life

Happy #moonbearmonday!

While moon bears Rae and Elise were quick to strike up a strong bond when they met at Animals Asia's Vietnam rescue center, the two have very distinct personalities.

Last week Rae was first to the "picnic table" and looked perfectly content with what she found. In stark contrast, best friend Elise looks less excited by the apple that was left behind.

If you recall, Rae ate all the banana flowers and perhaps Elise might have liked a choice. But that apple still didn't last long.

Animals Asia's Vietnam Bear and Vet Team Director Annemarie Weegenaar said, "Elise and Rae are quite different but complement each other really well. Elise is really brave both with new bears and new spaces and that bravery or curiosity has really helped the more sensitive Rae."

The two individuals have different histories too. While Rae was the only bear to be kept at a plastics factory, Elise was just one of 54 bears on an industrial bear bile farm in southern Vietnam's Binh Duong province.

Sadly, Vietnam's bear bile farms still hold nearly 2,000 bears. They are kept in poor conditions so that the bile can be extracted from their gall bladders for use in traditional medicine.

The extraction process results in long term physical and mental health problems for the animals, with many starved, dehydrated and suffering from multiple diseases and malignant tumours that ultimately kill them When Elise was rescued by Animals Asia in 2011, she had raw lesions on her forehead from chronic head-swaying. The pain of bile extraction and the insufferable boredom of years in a tiny cage had caused her to rub her head against the bars.

Today Elise is easy to spot in the enclosure as her forehead has remained scarred and bald.

In 2013, Rae and Elise were integrated and their friendship became a key part of their rehabilitation process. Both bears were immediately comfortable with each other and thankfully the stimulation of company has reduced stress-induced stereotyping in both girls.

Annemarie Weegenaar said:

"Elise has really enjoyed herself since moving to a new enclosure. She was first in the pool and was spotted sunning her belly in the late afternoon sun while leaning against the den wall. But she's not forgotten Rae, they've been having a great time wrestling on the grass together."

Have a great #moonbearmonday, everyone!