Beryl the Peril - Could this be the world's naughtiest bear cub?

Staff at Free the Bears sanctuary in Laos have their hands full with an inquisitive and impish pair of Moon bear cubs named Brenda and Beryl. The two sisters arrived at the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre on 1st March 2017 after being seized from a villager who claimed that he had found them abandoned in the forest nearby his home in Oudomxay Province, northern Laos. The cubs were kept at a local police station for a month before the local Forestry office learned of their existence and facilitated a handover to Free the Bears, an international animal welfare and wildlife conservation charity that manages the only dedicated bear rescue centre in Laos. Upon arrival at the rescue centre the two cubs weighed less than 2kg each and required around-the-clock feeds, spending most of their time sleeping between feeds. From day one the sisters showed highly distinctive personalities. The larger of the two, named Beryl, would scratch and bite at feeding time, losing her temper with the rubber teat and often drawing blood on the unfortunate carer whose only crime was trying to keep her alive. Conversely, her smaller sister, named Brenda, would calmly drink her milk and then snuggle back in her box after just a few minutes of gentle play.

1. Beryl Brenda being handed over 1st March 2017Brenda & Beryl being handed over to Free the Bears in March 2017

Over the course of 3 months the cubs have grown in size, skill and confidence. Both Brenda and Beryl have doubled in size and now weigh more than 5kg each, fast out-growing the temporary nursery that the Free the Bears team have constructed for them. With 43 Moon bears in the sanctuary today, and more expected over coming weeks, space is at a premium and so the cubs’ carers have been taking them on short walks in the forest to allow them to experience some of the sights, sounds and scents that they should have been experiencing with their mother in the wild. True to nature, both cubs are highly energetic and relish the opportunity to dig for termites, frolic through fallen leaves and practise their climbing skills. With some of the trees surrounding the sanctuary up to 40metres tall the carers are kept on their feet making sure that the cubs don’t climb too high – which often means bringing them back down to Earth before they are out of reach. Of course, it didn’t take Beryl long to shake off her guardians and lead her sister high up into the branches of a particularly nice tree overhanging one of the many pools at the base of Tat Kuang Si waterfall. Her carers were left straining their necks for more than an hour, readying themselves to take the plunge if either cub fell into the water. Brenda soon tired of the adventure and climbed skilfully back down to the ground, while Beryl continued to taunt the Free the Bears team – at one stage hanging upside down in the precariously thin branches and only coming back down when she realised that her sister was getting an extra milk feed without her!

6. As the cubs grew bigger they become more independent as well as more destructiveAs the cubs grow bigger they become more independent as well as more destructive

Commenting on the cubs’ feisty personalities, Free the Bears Chief Executive Matt Hunt said “Over the past 22 years Free the Bears has taken in scores of Moon bear cubs and they are typically more rowdy than their Sun bear cousins, but Beryl is in a league of her own! I don’t think we’ve ever had a cub that is so determined to get up to mischief – the very idea that some people think that it would be nice to keep a bear cub as a pet astounds me. I honestly cannot think of anything worse to have in your home!”

7. Ultimately we want to see all bears remain in the forest where they belongUltimately we want to see all bears remain in the forest where they belong

Brenda and Beryl are the 44th and 45th bears to be rescued in Laos since Free the Bears began working with the Laos government to protect bears in 2003. Sadly, it is incredibly hard to duplicate the learning experiences that a bear cub would enjoy with its mother over the course of two to three years if left in the wild, and so efforts aimed at re-releasing rescued cubs have met with limited success. Work is currently underway to develop the Luang Prabang Wildlife Sanctuary as an extension of Free the Bears work in Laos. Once completed this brand new 25-hectare sanctuary will allow for up to 150 more bears to be rescued from bile farms and the illegal wildlife trade. Since the cubs’ arrival two further Moon bears have been rescued, making the need for the new sanctuary more urgent than ever.

Anyone wishing to support the construction of the new sanctuary can donate online by clicking here!