A Munchkin Mary Christmas from our bears in Vietnam

The cases had been packed choc full with mince pies, silly Santa and elf hats, wrapping paper and face paints, and flown over to Vietnam, all to get into the swing of the happiest time of the year. Now, it was just a question of unpacking everything, seeing our team get into the party mood, and on with the mammoth task of wrapping gifts for the bears and decorating their enclosures like a winter wonderland.

TEAM

The pi?atas were made with love, boxes were filled with nuts, fruits and sweet sticky treats, and paper "message baubles" opened and read with smiles from friends and supporters across the world who had written the most beautiful loving words to the bears.

TEAM_BARROW

Any goodness were the kids restless! Our local elves had so many bears to visit and so little time – little raisin brown eyes peered out of their dens and noses twitched towards the goodies being laid outside, while everything that had been wrapped and tagged was now being delivered in super quick time.?The mince pies were warm, the gifts shimmered with festive decoration, and the trees were adorned with yummy treats to eat.

ENCLOSURE DECOR

Just as we all finished decorating the enclosure, piled out of the gates, and waited by the fenceline, there in the distance was the sound of a bell – not Santa and his sleigh, but the bell the bears know so well that heralds their den doors opening and the signal that their tummies will soon be full. As the gates rose up like a portcullis, the residents of The Little Toy Bear House scuttled and shuffled out onto the grass. These ten delightful little bears have the shortest legs of all our 185 bears in Vietnam – sadly as a result of their cage confinement and days of miserable bile extraction on the farms, but all this was long forgotten by our excited "munchkin" bears today.

The atmosphere was electric as they sniffed and snatched in their excitement to eat the next mandarin orange, or new tasty treat.?Of course there was the odd little tiff between the youngsters who claimed "their" box at the very same time as another bear, but grumpy tantrums were soon forgotten as each new sweet discovery saw them eating 'teddy bear' style - sitting on their bottoms with their prize clutched firmly in their paws.

SMALL BEAR PIC

Sweet little Mary who claims the same picnic table each and every day was on a mission to get there again – and she wouldn't be disappointed when she arrived.?Her squat little legs climbed up the rickety stairs and there were her gifts waiting for her, as she went from prize to prize claiming and enjoying each one. The only treats ignored were the two mince pies, and her disdain was obvious - turning her nose up at each one – but her festive breakfast no less enjoyable, as the litter and empty boxes festooned under her table showed by the end of the day.

mARY

Little Caz with surely the smallest little legs of them all, made her way through the grass, holding her head high to avoid brushing against anything taller than a daisy. Vet Shawn said they often had to cut the grass to save her scratching her little chest!? With her chin nearly touching the ground, at least she had the advantage of hoovering up the dog food pellets before many of the other bears had even seen or smelled them!

CAZ

Our Senior Bear Manager, Sarah was observant to the end, and sent in notes of the bears' behaviour at the close of the day:

"These bears are the kind of bears who like to save things up, so at 4pm Sam was seen ripping into the last of the present boxes,?that had been hidden in a pile of straw.? Dolly is our resident Christmas Grinch, giving a little 'bah humbug' at bears who got too close to her in their enthusiastic hunt for gifts. Mary was a mince pie party pooper, preferring to stomp on them rather than eat them, and Irene won the prize for most industrious present hunter, and picked herself up a good haul of mince pies."

And our Bear and Vet Team Director, Heidi, had another observation of Mary by the end of the day:? "Mary's more of a 'salad for Christmas kinda gal'...she's one in a million."

All around them, the Christmas messages sent in from across the world made our hearts sing. While most of our friends and supporters have never seen the bears close up, your messages of love for Sweet Pea and Valerie, and Sugar and Spice and friends, and your encouragement for the team and our goal for ending bear bile farming really made everyone smile.

BAUBLES

Meanwhile in the Cub House, Amanda and team were giving Sugar and Spice and Scooby their festive treats, and told us later:

"So Scooby was the first out and gobbled up the mince pie closest to the den. Spice got the first present,ripped it open, then she and Sugar shared what was inside. Next Sugar found a present on the platform and wandered around with it in her mouth, taking it into the tunnel trying to hide it from everyone.?She then got one of the presents from under the tree and before anyone had a chance to snap a picture she snuck off with that too, and pulled it apart in front of the den.

I had to go back to the office, but translator Ngoc informed me that Sugar got ALL of the presents under the tree and sneaked away with them to destroy them on her own.?Sweet Scooby was too busy foraging around the enclosure for his normal food, to notice anything special and, by the time Spice arrived at the tree, all the presents were gone. Like a cat at Christmas, she enjoyed playing with some of the paper mache and sniffed and played with the tree. The day rounded off as usual with Sugar and Spice wrestling and playing, and all was good in this part of Santa's grotto."

Sweet, shy little Sugar was later seen contentedly enjoying her post Christmas lunch by working it off on the swing!?

SUGAR ON SWING

See more of Sugar & Spice and Scooby enjoying their day, here.

Over in House 7& 8 the bears were enjoying their Christmas treats too. These are the young "hooligans" who burst out of their dens when the bell sounded, with all the enthusiasm of long distance runners at the starting blocks.?As they stood on strong, sturdy legs to reach high into the trees, their clumsy maneuvers often saw parcels tumbling to the grass, and into the waiting paws of bears who knew that sitting patiently under the branches would almost certainly pay off.

Baruffa was more intent on breaking one of the trees in two, and after a good few minutes of wrestling with the trunk, it finally snapped in half with a satisfying thwack. Not content with the laugh he received from his human audience a few feet away, he thrust his head into a now empty box and walked nonchalantly around the enclosure as if to say; "nothing to see here".??

Funny Jenoe was more interested in his admiring audience at the fenceline and, after deciding he'd been stared at for long enough at a distance, ambled over for some close ups and selfies with the crowd.?

jENOE - CLOSE UP

?Our "Little Dragon", Tieu Long, loved the red pi?atas – and was on a mission to eat the contents of each and every one? - tucking into the pinata shells decorated with brightly coloured non-toxic paint. ?Looking on, Vet Nurse Kat mused, "I think there's going to be loads of multi-coloured 'gifts' coming my way tomorrow!" ?

Whenever we make pinatas, we ensure we use materials that are vet approved - we use plain paper, oats and water. Truth be told, the bears are far more interested in eating what we've hidden inside, rather than the pinata itself! Claws and teeth are used to tear pinatas open, with bits of paper and flour promptly spat out in the search for juicy strips of dried fruit, fresh popcorn or crunchy nuts and seeds.

BEAR_PINATA

So pre-occupied was Tieu Long, he hadn't heard the presence of Georges behind him – who promptly bit him on the behind and ran away. With a roar of indignation, Tieu Long chased Georges around the enclosure – well Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a brief family dispute!

Once all the bears had eaten as much as they could, played a few games, then eaten some more, everyone slept off their excesses, tummies up in the final warm glows of sunshine in our little place of peace and tranquility, in Bearland Vietnam.

See more great photos from our Christmas fun in Vietnam here.

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