Reporting from Peru: Cholita the ‘real-life Paddington bear’ who won the world’s hearts after suffering abuse in the circus has been successfully returned to her native home by Animal Defenders International (ADI). The elderly, hairless bear has been nursed back to health by the animal rescue organisation and relocated in an epic three-day journey over the Andes to a specially-built habitat in the Amazon.
25 year old Cholita is an endangered Spectacled bear, who suffered years of loneliness, shut in a tiny cage and abused at the circus. Her fingers were brutally cut down to stumps to remove her front claws and her teeth were broken off, leaving her defenceless. Cholita’s sad, stressful life has left her suffering from severe hair loss – where she should have thick, black fur she has none, leaving her almost completely bald.
Animal Defenders International recovered Cholita earlier this year and has nursed her back to better health, helping her arthritis and breathing troubles. At the ADI Spirit of Freedom rescue centre near Lima, Peru, Cholita as received round the clock care, a more natural, appropriate diet, veterinary treatment, a pool to bathe in and hanging fruits and toys to entertain her.
Thanks to an overwhelming public response, a new home has been built for Cholita, complete with bathing pool and cave, at the Taricaya Ecological Reserve on the edge of the Tambopata reserve in the Amazon Cloud Forest – the natural habitat for Spectacled bears. The lush, natural jungle habitat was constructed by a team from ADI, Taricaya and Projects Abroad volunteers.
ADI started loading in the middle of the night before setting out on the 1,500 km / 1,000 mile journey across the Andes to take Cholita home to the rainforest. Travelling on the convoy and also headed for new forever homes were Mufasa the puma, who was rescued from living on a pick-up truck in a circus, and James the military macaw, woolly monkeys Rojas, Joan and Diego, and spider monkeys Pepe-Lucho and Lily, who were rescued from illegal wildlife trafficking.
A convoy of trucks and cars laden with a dozen bales of hay, food, water and veterinary supplies including two oxygen tanks, left Lima on Wednesday morning for the three-day drive. Cholita and the others snuggled into blankets and thick straw beds, and their cages and crates were covered with blankets and plastic to guard against the mountain cold.
Due to concerns about elderly Cholita’s breathing issues, ADI fitted out Cholita’s cage with an oxygen tent. As the convoy climbed to high altitudes, Cholita’s cage was flooded with oxygen-rich air to ensure she did not become distressed. Cholita built a huge den in her travel cage from four bales of straw and buried herself there for most of the journey.
After three days of travel and stopping only for food and water, Cholita, Mufasa, the monkeys and parrot all arrived safely at Puerto Maldonado for the final leg of the journey by boat down the Madre de Dios river in the Amazon basin.
On arrival at Taricaya, Cholita found herself in the forest, hearing all the sounds she has not heard for a lifetime, smelling the earth, touching the leaves and the trees. The joy of their new environment was clear for Mufasa, Rojas, Joan, Diego, Pepe-Lucho, Lily and James.
Animal Defenders International President Jan Creamer said “When we first met Cholita, the vivid scars of her abusive circus life were clear to see. She has come so far since then, and it is a wonderful feeling to have seen Cholita return to the world from which she was stolen as a baby. We thank everyone who has donated to help us save Cholita and bring her home.”
With Cholita relocated to her new jungle home, Animal Defenders International has turned its attention to finding her some friends and three more Spectacled bears who are in urgent need of a new life in the jungle – Lucho, Sabina and Dominga, who has also lost all her fur. ADI must act fast to save them and has launched an urgent appeal to build a safe haven for the three bears and care for them for life. It is hoped they will be companions for Cholita, who has been isolated from her own kind since her mother was likely killed when she was snatched from the wild as a baby.
Animal Defenders International President Jan Creamer said, “People all over the world have been touched by Cholita’s story and we have been overwhelmed by the public’s heartfelt response which has allowed us to save Cholita and build her perfect home. We now have an opportunity to give Cholita the companionship she desperately needs. Please donate now to complete the storybook ending for Cholita and the three bears and give this sweet bear her happily ever after.”
It is expected to cost Animal Defenders International over £100,000 to save the three bears and provide Cholita and friends with specialist, life-long care.
Please donate now: www.ad-international.org/helpthebears or 020 7630 3340.
Cholita was rescued as part of Animal Defenders International’s Operation Spirit of Freedom, a mission in collaboration with Peru’s authorities to enforce their law on wild animal circuses, and raid circuses all over the country in the biggest operation of its kind. During the mission, the organisation has saved nearly 100 animals from circuses and the illegal wildlife trade.
Animal Defenders International President Jan Creamer said, “Our utmost thanks go to Peru’s wildlife officials at SERFOR and ATFFS, as well as Projects Abroad and their volunteers at Taricaya Ecological Reserve who worked so hard to build a wonderful new home for Cholita in the rainforest.”