BEARS are not the usual patients for vet Chris Linney.
But the head of the cardiology team at Willows Veterinary Centre in Solihull has recently returned from China where he medicated a number of the resident Asiatic black bears at Animals Asia’s China Bear Rescue Centre in Chengdu.
Working with authorities in both China and Vietnam, Animals Asia has rescued more than 600 bears from bile farms. The charity has worked in China since 1998 to help bears on bile farms with the aim of trying to end this cruel practice.
Chris, who has worked at Willows since 2015, originally became involved with the charitable foundation five years ago, when he made his first trip to Chengdu to assess and treat the bears there – many of whom had been rescued from tiny cages which prompted conditions from bad backs and joints, to cardiac and blood pressure issues.
He said: “I have offered a consultancy advice from a distance since our initial visit, so it was really pleasing to get back to Chengdu and see some promising results in the older bears we medicated in 2013.
“A lot of them now have improved blood pressure and heart health, which was very gratifying. The medications have had beneficial effects on their hearts and are helping to reduce the risk of sudden death for them.
“It was an intense schedule to allow us to assess as many bears as possible during the visit and we checked 30 bears over the course of ten days. After the bears were anaesthetised we would assess them for signs of high blood pressure, perform cardiac ultrasound and chest X-rays and check for any organ damage caused by their previous lives. It was a pretty thorough process.
“The days were long but absolutely worth it and the trip was very rewarding. I love my day job seeing small animal cases but there is something majestic about these bears that have struggled and suffered and to be able to help improve their lives is really a highlight of my role as a cardiologist.
“Having been rescued from the bile farming trade, these bears are now able to enjoy their golden years in the countryside without being confined to lives in cages.
“It’s almost a once-in-a-lifetime type of trip, so for me to be able to go and work there twice was a real privilege and a third visit is already in the planning.”
As well as utilising his cardiology skills in a practical fashion, Chris also gave some continuing professional development (CPD) sessions – complete with a translator – to local vets in Chengdu.
Animals Asia also works to end the trade in dogs and cats for food in China and Vietnam, advocates improving the welfare of companion animals and promotes humane population management.
The charity also campaigns for an end to abusive animal practices in zoos and safari parks in south east Asia and works closely with governing authorities to improve animal management and increase awareness of the welfare needs of captive wild animals.
Visit www.animalsasia.org for further details.