Twenty of China’s 31 provinces are now bear-farm free after the dramatic rescue of 10 bears from Shandong Province’s last bile farm by Animals Asia – an operation that culminated in emergency roadside surgery for one geriatric bear, nicknamed Oliver.

Twenty of China’s 31 provinces are now bear-farm free after the dramatic rescue of 10 bears from Shandong Province’s last bile farm by welfare charity Animals Asia Foundation.
 
Oliver's emergency cholecystectomy (Image ©Animals Asia/Ali Bullock)The charity’s rescue team arrived at the Animals Asia sanctuary in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, on April 23 after four gruelling days on the road, and emergency roadside surgery for one geriatric bear, nicknamed Oliver.
 
Animals Asia’s vet team was forced to perform an emergency cholecystectomy (gall bladder removal) on the back of one of the three rescue trucks, saving the life of the dying bear.
 
Oliver, along with seven other bears trapped on the farm in Weihai, Shandong, had been wearing barbaric metal jackets and bile-milking catheters, long banned by the Chinese authorities. Oliver had spent 15 years on the Shandong farm and another 15 years trapped on other farms.
 
Animals Asia’s veterinary director Heather Bacon said it was unlikely 30-year-old Oliver would have survived the 2,400km road-trip without the surgery, which relieved his excruciating pain.
 
She said: “Clearly the bile farmers removed the bears’ metal jackets and ripped out their catheters just hours before our arrival to collect them. In Oliver’s case, they left a crude flange (spiked metal ring) embedded in his gall bladder to keep the catheter in place.”
 
Heather Bacon at work (Image ©Animals Asia)The four-hour surgery was performed on the back of the truck carrying Oliver after the rescue convoy was forced to divert from the planned route to the nearest hospital – the Trauma Emergency Hospital in Feng Ling Du Town, Shanxi Province – which kindly provided the team with oxygen, hot-water bottles and towels needed for the operation.
 
Dr Bacon said: “Oliver’s condition was extremely serious and he’s not out of the woods yet, but at least he’s now drinking and eating a little fruit. He will need extensive treatment over the coming weeks for a host of other problems, including chronic arthritis, but we’re hopeful this shockingly abused bear will live to enjoy his time in the sun.”
 
Animals Asia’s director of external affairs, China, Toby Zhang, praised the China Wildlife Conservation Association and Shandong’s forestry authorities who worked together with Animals Asia to close the province’s last farm – one of the worst in China – after an appeal six weeks ago.
 
Mr Zhang said: “With Shandong now on board, only 11 mainland Chinese provinces still have bear farms. A total of 19 provinces have joined our campaign to end bear farming – closing their remaining farms and pledging to root out any hidden farms they might discover in the future. Along with Shanghai, which is also bear-farm free but declined to join our campaign, 20 provinces have now consigned this shameful, unnecessary industry to the history books – almost two-thirds of China. This is real progress for our campaign and gives us renewed hope for these highly endangered bears.”  
 
This rescue brings to 276 the total number of bears rescued from China’s bile industry by Animals Asia – and the 42nd farm closed. The 10 bears (seven females and three males) are a mix of moon bears (Asiatic black bears) and brown bears.

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