Our Projects

Sun bears

Sun bears are the world’s smallest bears species, standing at around 1.2 metres tall, and one of the rarest. They face serious threats from habitat loss and the illegal wildlife trade. RZSS has been working to help protect sun bears since 2010, when a pair of bears, rescued from the illegal pet trade in Cambodia by Free the Bears were rehomed in Edinburgh.

Free the Bears was founded in the early 1990’s by Mary Hutton, who upon seeing distressing footage of moon bears in bile farms, became determined to help suffering bears across Asia. Free the Bears initial bear sanctuary in Cambodia is now the worlds’ largest for sun bears, and the charity has expanded to include sanctuaries in Vietnam, Laos, and India, with over 900 bears rescued to date.

Below: RZSS Veterinary Surgeon, Romain Pizzi, performing a health check on a moon bear with the Free the Bears team in Vietnam

RZSS Veterinary Surgeon, Romain Pizzi, performing a health check on a moon bear in Vietnam

Free the Bears continues to rescue an average of one new bear every month from the illegal wildlife trade in Cambodia alone. Rescued bears also have a wide range of medical needs and so specialist veterinary care is vital to tackle issues such as snare wounds and zoonotic disease, as well as helping support the care of orphaned cubs.

RZSS supports the work of Free the Bears through the provision of funding and capacity building with local veterinary teams based at their sanctuaries. In addition to relatively simple skills training such as gas anaesthesia or sterilization of surgical kits, this work has grown to include ground-breaking surgeries, such as the worlds’ first keyhole surgery to remove the damaged gallbladders from former bile farm bears.

RZSS is proud to support the life-saving work of Free the Bears. We hope that by raising awareness of this vital conservation work with visitors to our Zoo, and through our work with the charity throughout Asia, we can continue to safeguard this incredible species.

Find out more about the work of Free the Bears:


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Project Gallery

  • The Bear Discovery Trail around the bear habitats and education centre at Free the Bears Rescue Centre in Laos.

  • RZSS Veterinary Surgeon, Romain Pizzi, capacity building with the Free the Bears team in Vietnam

  • Free the Bears' world-class Quarantine Nursery provides the best 24-hour care possible for rescued cubs.

  • Kobe the Moon bear lost an arm to a poacher's snare, but now enjoys the beautiful natural forest habitats at the Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre.

  • RZSS Veterinary Surgeon, Romain Pizzi, working with the Free the Bears team in Vietnam