A bear who was rescued after 30 years of captivity on a bile farm in China has died.
Oliver was a moon bear who became a symbol of the animal welfare movement in China after being rescued with a group of other bears from appallingly cramped cages in a bear farm in Shandong in 2010.
Animals Asia founder and CEO Jill Robinson MBE said that Oliver “was a broken bear when we found him. His body and legs were misshapen by years of being crushed in a cage and we feared he would not survive the 1,500-mile journey home.”
During his rescue, as his condition began to worsen, he underwent – and survived – emergency roadside surgery.
With a local police escort, the trucks carrying Oliver and the other rescued bears went to a local hospital and borrowed a bottle of oxygen needed for anesthetic. A four-hour roadside surgery ensued, during which a huge crowd of onlookers gathered to watch as Oliver’s diseased gall bladder was removed, along with a crude and painful metal coil that had been inserted into his abdomen to fasten the gall bladder to his abdominal wall.
He went on to live his remaining four years in a bear sanctuary in Chengdu, western China, which is run by the British charity Animals Asia. Oliver also starred in a film called “Cages of Shame,” which helped turn public opinion against bear bile farming.
On Wednesday, vets made the decision to euthanize Oliver. Daily Mail reports that a group of employees who had helped rescue and care for him during his peaceful last years were there to hold his paw during his final moments.
Robinson said that the bear’s story “has raised increasing awareness of the horrors of bear bile farming.”
“Our broken bear turned teacher and his stoic, gentle nature will continue to inspire the rescue of so many more,” Robinson said.
Mail Online reports that more than 10,000 endangered Asiatic black bears – known as moon bears because of the cream-colored crescents on their chests – are caged from birth in bile farms across China and southeast Asian countries. Crude catheters are jabbed into the bears’ abdomens to extract bile from their gall bladders; the bile is used in traditional Chinese medicines to treat a range of illnesses from hemorrhoids and sore throats to hangovers.
Many bears rescued from these farms are left blind or have had their teeth and claws hacked out by farmers.
Despite this brutality, Animals Asia vet team director Nic Field said that Oliver managed to maintain a “forgiving and spirited nature.”
“Every visitor to the sanctuary and every supporter around the world knows Oliver’s story,” Field added. “His legacy will live on.”