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Animal videos are always heartwarming. However, the one that captured Tuffy, a black bear splashing in a pool, is even more so. That's because it shows the animal's unbridled joy after being rescued from a bear bile farm, where he was locked in a tiny cage and tortured for years. In fact, Tuffy was so thrilled with his newly found freedom that he did not return to his den that evening — Instead, the bear spent the night sleeping under the stars.
The farms that are scattered across China and Vietnam entrap bears like Tuffy to extract bile from their gall bladders. The sticky fluid that is used by our bodies to digest fatty foods is an essential ingredient in many traditional Chinese medicines, earning the animal abusers millions of dollars, each year.
Tuffy was one of six bears rescued by animal activists from the Vietnam chapter of the non-profit group Animals Asia in September 2015. The vet team has since been trying to rehabilitate the bear from the trauma and damage done by years of bile extraction. Tuffy's gall bladder was so impaired that it had to be removed. The bear also suffered from three fractured teeth and dry, cracked paws.
According to Animals Asia Bear Manager Louise Ellis, “The cracked paws are common to bile farm bears as they only walk on bars, not grass. Dehydration is likely to have contributed to this too. So for his carers to see him take to the pool so quickly after he first became ready to face the outdoors was an amazing moment. Coming from years of little or no water, for Tuffy, this must feel like a true oasis after being parched and in pain for so long. It must have felt like such a relief to have the freedom to splash around in the water after only being able to stand on the hard metal bars of the bile farm cage.”
While Tuffy and the 600 other bears that live at the Animals Asia sanctuaries in Vietnam and China are safe and healthy, there are thousands more that still need to be rescued. The nonprofit estimates that there are about 1,200 bears in Vietnam and as many as 10,000 bears in China, still being held captive at these bile farms.