A new Paddington bear is stealing the spotlight.
According to Animals Asia, the animal welfare charity saved a moon bear — also known as an Asian black bear — that rescuers named Paddington from a tiny cage at a bear bile farm in Vietnam on Sept. 22.
Animals Asia learned about the bear’s predicament from the Forest Protection Department in Nam Dinh, Vietnam, which told the organization that a police officer spotted Paddington stuck at the farm.
The Vietnamese authorities and Animals Asia have been working together for years to end bear bile farming in Vietnam. Bear bile farms often keep moon bears captive in small spaces to extract their bile for use in traditional eastern medicines. The practice is now illegal in Vietnam, but many bear bile farmers have kept their animals due to legal loopholes in the ban. Through their partnership, Animals Asia and the Vietnam authorities have reached hundreds of bear bile farmers and worked with them to surrender their animals.
After learning about Paddington, Animals Asia and the authorities contacted the female bear’s owner, who agreed to surrender the animal voluntarily. On Sept. 22, after creating an individualized rescue plan for Paddington, Animals Asia went to the farm and helped the bear take her first steps towards freedom.
Rescuers found Paddington in a small cage, hidden in a dark and damp annex of the farmer’s garden, rocking and weaving in the container — a sign of distress in bears. The farmer told rescuers that they purchased the animal from a wildlife trader in 2005, leading Animals Asia to estimate that Paddington had spent 17 years confined in a tight space suffering painful bile extractions.
To make the 4-hour trip to Animals Asia’s Tam Dao sanctuary in Vietnam easier on Paddington, rescuers sedated the bear, performed a quick health check on the animal, and then transported her to her new home.
Upon waking up and arriving at the sanctuary, Paddington was treated to marmalade — a favorite of the fictional bear she is named after. Like her namesake, Paddington the moon bear adored the sweet snack. She also feasted on banana leaves, carrots, pumpkins, tomatoes, and apples.
Paddington is finishing up a 30-day quarantine period at Animals Asia’s sanctuary. Once the quarantine is complete, Paddington will be able to start exploring her lush, expansive forever home and meeting the sanctuary’s other rescued bears. Right now, Paddington is focused on getting healthy.
“She was really dehydrated. Her upper canine on the right side is broken with exposed pulp. This will need to be fixed, and when she is settled at the sanctuary, our vets will perform a root canal. This effective treatment will help save the tooth and avoid much pain for her. She also has a lot of tartar on her teeth which will be solved with a balanced diet with lots of fresh fruit and veggies at the sanctuary. The team hasn’t found any abnormal signs in her gall bladder through ultrasound,” Animals Asia said in a statement to PEOPLE about Paddington’s current health status.
Animals Asia believes there are around 310 moon bears still stuck at bear bile farms in Vietnam, and the charity is working with the country’s authorities to save them all. The organization’s sanctuary in Tam Do — where Paddington now resides — is almost at capacity. Animals Asia is working on building a second sanctuary in Bach Ma, Vietnam, which will provide a home for the moon bears in Vietnam that remain in the bear bile trade.
To learn more about Animals Asia and support the charity’s work to save moon bears like Paddington, visit the organization’s website.