BEIJING (AP) — A farmer in south China found twin black bear cubs alone in a forest while he was out picking tea leaves, state media said Saturday. He was planning to raise them until they were big enough to fend for themselves, but an animal welfare group has intervened.
China Central Television reported that the tea farmer, Tian Shougui, heard the animals crying in the forest two weeks ago and brought them home to his house in Sichuan province's Longhua township without realizing they were bears.
"I heard their crying high up a hill, which made me very curious," Tian told CCTV. "I didn't know what animals they were but still decided to bring them back to my home, just to save their lives."
The twins, a boy weighing just 7.05 pounds (3.2 kilograms) and a girl weighing 6.83 pounds (3.1 kilograms), were confirmed by local animal welfare experts to be Asiatic black bears, the report said.
Asiatic black bears are also known as moon bears because of a crescent shaped marking on their chests. They are protected under Chinese law but are sometimes poached for their bile, which is used in Chinese traditional medicine.
CCTV did not say what happened to the cubs' mother. Based on their weight, they are likely about three months old, according to data from the Wildlife Information Network.
Tian fed them milk, rice powder and egg yolks, the report said. He wanted to keep them until they grew to about 15 kilograms (33 pounds), but a local animal welfare organization is planning to take over their care and releasing them back into the wild sooner.
"When they wake up, they come to me and play with my bottom of trousers," Tian said. "After they are fed, they play for a bit longer, then go to sleep."
Editor's note: This does not seem to be related to a story earlier this month that also involved twin bear cubs in China:
Footage shows the twin black bear cubs at China's Qingdao Wildlife Park frolicking with a tiger cub who was also hand-reared.
The three-month old cubs were taken from their mother at birth after she showed signs of rejecting them.