Caged as a cub, Armstrong the bear stepped outside for the first time in over 20 years to the delight of his rescuers. Armstrong was likely stolen from his mother in the wild and watched her being killed as she fought to protect him from poachers.
“He was put in a cage and for the next 20 years suffered repeated bile extraction, the bile was sold for traditional medicine,” says Animals Asia of Armstrong’s history. They were able to rescue Armstrong four weeks ago after persuading his owner to hand him over to their care along with a few other Asian black bears.
The bear rescue organization shared a video of Armstrong taking his first tentative steps outdoors at their new sanctuary in Bach Ma, northern Vietnam. He’s hesitant but thanks to the snacks left out by his caregivers and his innate bravery and curiosity he ventures out.
“This is the first time he has smelled the fresh air, felt the breeze on his fur and seen the sun since he was a cub,” the narrator in the video says.
During the previous month, Armstrong needed to be rehabilitated. He needed to have his mental and physical strength built up because venturing outside is an immense first step for a caged bear. He learnt how to forage and use his natural skills.
Armstrong will need a bit more time to be brave enough to step on the grass, but it will happen just as it did for another rescued bear named Dawn. Armstrong is the first bear to be released into the rescue’s new sanctuary, which will be home to the several hundred bears who still remain on bile farms. Animals Asia is working with the Vietnam government to end bear bile farming in Vietnam by 2026.
Here’s the video filmed live of Armstrong being rescued from his cage.