Swinging in hammocks, playing with tires and generally frolicking in a wonderland made just for the them, the bears at the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre have plenty to be happy about since they were all rescued from poachers looking to harvest their parts.
Operated by Free the Bears, a fund set up to save imperiled ursines across the globe, the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre caters specifically to the Asian black bear. The bile from the black bear’s gall bladder is a common component in traditional Chinese medicine, and unfortunately a brutal black market has sprung up around milking the animals for their vital juices. Kept in inhumane conditions, the illegally trapped bears would be repeatedly harvested so long as they could survive in their tiny cages. In addition, the animals are often poached to be used as food or even pets.
Tragic origins aside, the bears at the rescue center lead a fulfilling life in the open enclosures that provide enough space and stimulation to keep the animals happy and healthy.
Visitors to the refuge can stroll along the wooden paths and view the adorable (if grizzly) beasts as they lounge, play and generally look more cuddly than killer. There are also informative signs that inform guests of the plight of the Asian black bear, but even the sad facts can’t keep the rescued bears from being utterly heartwarming.
Know Before You Go
30km southwest of Luang Prabang, the Centre is located at the foot of the trail to Tat Kuang Si Waterfall