Group effort succeeds in rescuing three suffering moon bears

Three bears, two male and one female, were finally freed after living for years in horrible conditions. The rescue was organized by a joint task force of associations and organizations dedicated to animal rights including the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise (PNAM), the Italian Agency for Animal Protection (ENPA), the association "Save the Moon Bears" and the Forestry Service of Rome in collaboration with Albanian and international animal rights organizations such as Animal Rescue Albania, Albania Bears and Four Paws International.

The rescue mission that saved Sonia, Piero and Leone started way back in 2010. It took seven long years to coordinate the efforts of all the organizations involved with the local authorities in Italy and Albania. But once the plan was finally complete, they wasted no time in bringing the Italian bears home.

Unfortunately, the conditions in which Leone, Sonia and Piero had lived for years is not an exception in Albania. There, bears are used as an "attraction" in zoos and are kept in small and cramped cages without being cared for and properly fed. In these "horror zoos" these poor animals often spend their whole life behind rusty bars, in unhealthy cells made of concrete. Sometimes, cruel caretakers force them to "take a walk" with a collar just for the entertainment of zoo visitors. This photo shows one of the typical cages...

Asian black bears, also known as "moon bears," are a very special kind of bear. The nickname comes from the white marking on their chest that resembles a crescent moon. They've become famous all over the world for a very sad reason: they've been used as livestock in China for a very long time. The bears are kept on "farms" where they are bred and their bile extracted from their bodies so it can be sold for use in traditional Chinese medicine. The bears are kept in horrid conditions, often being locked in tiny cages with bile extraction tubes attached to their bodies through open wounds. They are referred to as "bear farms" but in reality they are more like animal concentration camps where the bears live a miserable existence and suffer a horrible, early death. Thankfully, there are organizations like Salviamo gli Orsi della Luna (Save the Moon Bears) that are trying to put an end to this suffering.

The rescue effort was a huge undertaking. Once authorities had attained custody of the bears, they had to be examined to see if they were fit enough to make the long journey to Italy. The bears were tranquilized during transport to prevent any further traumatization and were regularly checked by vets along the way. It was also a very laborious task and many people were needed to lift the heavy animals during the rescue effort as can be seen in these pictures...

The bears were taken from Albania to Italy. The first leg of their journey was by truck to the port of Igoumenitza, Greece. They were then put on a ship which took them to the port of Bari in Italy. From there, Sonia, Piero and Leone traveled to their new home in Campoli Appennino (Frosinone). Although they will still live in captivity, they now have 15 hectares of natural habitat in which to live.

This rescue effort is a great example of how organizations can work together to free animals from horrible conditions and give them a chance at a decent life free from suffering. 

Now that they have more space to enjoy, hopefully Sonia, Piero and Leone will enjoy their remaining years, thanks to their rescuers' efforts. As awareness of the shocking conditions in bear farms and certain zoos spreads, fewer animals will needlessly suffer. All creatures deserve to be treated with dignity.




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