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Fighting to save Kwan, the sun bear

She did’t look like a bear when we found her

On one of our check-ups on wildlife at temples and private homes around Thailand we found a 3 year old Malayan sun bear inside a dark room, kept at a temple.

The bear had been in the room for so long, without any sunlight, that it got weak,, skinny and lost almost all hair. The WFFT wildlife rescue team begged the owners to give up the poor bear so it could be taken to the WFFT hospital for treatment, to save it’s life!

At 4 PM on Saturday 14th of March we were able to remove the bear from its ordeal and we started the long trip to our centre, arriving around 7 at night. Since arrival we have been fighting to keep the bear alive as it is too weak to eat and has a very low body temperature.

Most people will not recognise a bear in the photos, neither did we at first. We are doing all we can to rescue this bear right now.

UPDATE on March 16th
“Kwan” the little bear we rescued yesterday has been fighting for her life the last 24 hours. We have done all we could to keep her with us. She went down three times today, stopped breathing, but we got her back up again, hoping and fighting for the best.
This picture is of Kwan earlier today after we got her back on her feet again. Kwan passed away at 14:45 Thailand time. We are all devastated of this loss, wish we had better news.


Bears at Aungsuwan temple
Timeline of events.

5th January 2012
Upon receiving a complaint of concern about some wild animals at several temples, in Prachuapkhirikhan and Chumporn province, Edwin Wiek visits Aungsuwan temple (aka Nong Hoy temple) and finds gibbons, monkeys, an otter, deer, a muntjac and 5 Asiatic black bears in appalling conditions, in dirty and small cages. It seems that the animals are fed only plain rice and some banana’s.

10th of January 2012
WFFT send a veterinary team to the temple to discuss medical and animal welfare issue with monks and staff at the temple. Monks tell they are wanting to start a mini-zoo at the temple. Claim all wildlife is rescued but have no legal documents for ownership. Veterinary team leaves after documenting animals and making photos.

22nd of February 2012
During a visit of Damrong Phidet (at that time director-general of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife or DNP) to the WFFT center Edwin hands over a complaint on the Aungsuwan temple with information and photos. Mr. Damrong takes the paperwork with him and promises to act on the complaint.

17th of July 2012
WFFT resends the complaint by mail to the DNP region 3 head of wildlife protection (Mr. Metha Santikul) asking for urgent action as temple is still holding animals in inappropriate enclosures. We received no reply or acknowledgement.

08th of February 2014
WFFT veterinary team visits temple again, finds some new animals, but cages still in dirty conditions. WFFT head of veterinary department has a verbal fight with staff and monks at temple about conditions and care of the animals. Issue could not be resolved.

13th of February 2014
WFFT send a third letter of complaint/concern to the DNP region 3 office with photographic evidence and animal welfare description. WFFT stresses that the animals are protected by law and that there is no reason to allow further ownership of the wildlife at the temple. On February 17th Mr. Metha Santikul acknowledged receiving the complaint letter, says he will act.

12th April 2014
A check up by WFFT staff sees no changes at the temple. Wildlife still being kept as before. Phone call to region 3 office stays unanswered.

22nd August 2014
WFFT receives message from a source at DNP that all wildlife has been removed from the temple and temple been charged with illegal wildlife possession.

1st September 2014
Checked with local police for legal case, police tells us there is no such case at all. Edwin Wiek goes after this to the temple and finds 5 bears, one sambar deer and one muntjac still at the temple. All other wild animals taken away by DNP region 3 officials, says caretaker at the temple.
Edwin calls DNP office region 3, they claim they will remove bears within a week.

12th March 2015
WFFT receives a tip-off that one of the 5 bears that are still at the temple has passed away after illness and is being skinned. 4 more bears left behind in the cages, one of them not eating and puking green substance. One other bear losing hair.

13th March 2015
WFFT team visit temple and finds the 4 bears still in the cages that are extremely dirty with rotten food inside. One bear is seriously ill and needs urgent treatment. After talks with monks and staff they will allow treatment, but claim bears are confiscated by DNP and we can only treat with their permission. Permission granted by phone late afternoon. Edwin hears sound of a Malayan sun bear inside a building. Staff at temple tell later there is a 3 year old bear in one of the rooms. Not seen on this day.

14th of March 2015
WFFT mobile wildlife rescue team travels with full gear for treatment to temple, treats 2 sick bears. Both need to be sedated as one might attack staff if other is sedated or taken out. Sedation and treatment takes over 4 hours, meanwhile cage is being completely cleaned and disinfected by WFFT caretakers. One of the nurses takes Jansaeng (Noi) of WFFT into a building and finds the sun bear inside a dark room.
The sun bear is very ill and can hardly walk, she is literally skin over bones and needs urgent care, but team feels we might be too late to safe her. As the little bear is surely not going to make it at the temple we decide to take her to WFFT wildlife hospital. On arrival at WFFT the bear is recovering from anaestiesa but show signs if stress and weakness. She is put under intensive care.

15th March 2015
During the whole day the bear that is named “Kwan” is being treated and supported but she gets weaker and weaker. Kwan stopped breathing twice and was put back up again, but finally passed away at 14;45hrs.

16th March 2015
WFFT in touch with DNP head-office to ask for urgent rescue of the remaining 4 bears. WFFT team on the way to temple for further treatment.
At this moment 2 of the 6 bears have died and one is still struggling to survive.

A personal note from Edwin Wiek
“Why are some people immediately prosecuted and animals confiscated from them even if they are in good care, and others can keep the animals and are not prosecuted at all? Bottomline is; why did it take 3 years to act on this issue?

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