The loss of an arm on one side and part of her paw on the other has not stopped this special bear from making the most of life.

When the group Animals Asia opened its bear sanctuary in China in 2000, Freedom was one of the first bears to be brought through the doors and welcomed by a team of carers dedicated to helping her recover from serious injury.

She immediately stood out from other bears at the sanctuary, most of whom had been rescued from China’s notorious bile farms where they had been locked up in metal cages and milked for their bile.

These bears suffered fractured teeth and dry, cracked paws following years of abuse, hunger and disease but Freedom’s injuries were slightly different – and more visible.

Freedom (below) and her best friend Prince (above) share a tyre with each other.

She had lost her left front arm from the elbow and part of her right front paw, which caused her to hobble rather than amble around.

Freedom’s carers suspect she was caught in a poacher’s snare which sliced through her left limb and mangled her right paw. Knowing the pain and fear she was likely to have endured, the Animals Asia team worked hard to make her as comfortable as possible.

They brought her delicious fruit and vegetables to snack on and encouraged her to explore her grassy enclosure with its trees, rocks and pools.

After a while, Freedom was introduced to some friends who she happily now shares her days with, especially her best friend Prince who is always game for a tumble in the grass or a dip in the pool.

Big, beautiful and happy

Seventeen years after Freedom’s arrival at the rescue centre, this brave bear has blossomed into the bear she was meant to be.

Despite her disabilities, she has no trouble roaming around her enclosure, foraging in trees, sniffing out hidden treats, and generally making the most of every day.

Known for her love of ice lollies on a sweltering day, Freedom is often found basking in the sunshine, the soft grass tickling her thick, lustrous coat of fur – knowing she is safe and cherished.

Animals Asia Resident Veterinarian Emily Drayton said:

“We’ll never be able to understand Freedom’s fear and pain at being mutilated and trapped in the wild but we are awed by how she has reacted. She hasn’t let the traffickers win.

“Overcoming her disabilities and her past makes her a very special bear, indeed. To see her foraging and playing as any other able-bodied bear would behave is a reminder never to give up on a single bear.”

Animals Asia Founder and CEO, Jill Robinson said:

“Freedom is a gloriously beautiful bear and hops around like a furry black rabbit – completely unaware, or at least unperturbed, by any disability she might have.

“The other bears don’t seem to notice either, and Freedom has quite her share of male admirers in the enclosure where she lives.” – Animals Asia

If you would like to contribute to this work of rescueing wildlife, see www.animalsasia.org