years ago this April, Jill Robinson first walked onto a bear bile farm. On that day in April 1993, Jill could have walked away, but she chose to act and do what she could. Today, you also have a choice. If everyone reading this donated just US$20, it would pay for the care of over 150 bears at our China sanctuary for a full year. Please help us celebrate 20 years of progress. Donate US$20 today (or whatever you can afford).
Tuesday was a day tinged with joy and sadness. On-site in Chengdu to meet out bears was Benjamin Zephaniah, British/Jamaican poet and writer, who brought compassion and new friendship with him, while the day also saw us lose two of our old and very dear bear friends.
It was a sad day with the team having to say goodbye to Digger and then Simba in the space of a few hours.
Digger was an elderly bear who was among the first group of bears rescued in 1995, living most of her life at IFAW's sanctuary in southern China, under the loving care of Kati Loeffer in recent years. Last October 2009, we were delighted to welcome her and Chu Chu, Xie Sheung, Hong and Bebe as they joined their new family here in Chengdu. Kati remembers Chu Chu having a special friendship with this ladylike bear - he a scruffy, fun loving rogue who well and truly fell on his paws - as Kati describes here:
"He and Digger often shared a sleeping basket together and during afternoon nap time he would chew on her ears and be a general nuisance so persistently that she would give in and shed her dignfied ladyship exterior to play like a cub. When he was out wrestling with one of the boys, she would always be sitting nearby, quietly watching or thinking."
Soon after losing Digger in the morning, our China vet, Monica, sadly euthanised Simba who had bravely overcome mobility problems for so many months until it became clear that he could no longer tolerate the effects. Another one of our big boofs of bears - an enduring memory will be his arrival from the farm, squashed so tightly in the cage to the extent that even breathing was hard - and then, like so many before and after, so quickly forgetting his trauma, determined to enjoy every second of new friends and fun.
Heather has summarised below:
Pretty little Digger was found dead in her enclosure on Tuesday morning. Slumped peacefully against the fence, her unexpected death made an already sad day devastating for the team at House 10 who had cared for Simba for such a long time and were preparing for his probable loss. This same team had enthusiastically welcomed Digger and her companions from IFAW's Panyu sanctuary only a few months ago.
Bravely and professionally the team carried on with their normal duties, lavishing care on the rest of the House 10 bears while we performed the necessary postmortem examinations. Our investigations showed mild signs of kidney disease but the cause of Digger's sudden death was established as a tumour in the aorta, the main vessel carrying blood from her heart. Because of Digger's normal activity and demeanour prior to death, the likeliest scenario was that a clot associated with the tumour had dislodged, causing an embolus and a quick death in the enclosure.
After a valiant struggle against Simba's failing hind limbs, we made the difficult decision to say goodbye to our gorgeous, gentle giant on Tuesday. After a year of playing, wrestling and cavorting with his friends, Simba's legs finally deteriorated to a stage where they couldn't support him, and knowing that he's a bear that so loves to play with his friends, separation and isolation would not have been a fair option for him, so we decided to sadly say goodbye. Surrounded by the team who loved him so well, Simba was gently euthanised. Sleep well beautiful boy.
Digger and Simba were buried side by side in the late Spring sunshine. Rest in Peace.
Jill was on-site to say goodbye to these two special bears, having spent the earlier day introducing our work and the bears to Benjamin, who saw both sides of the rescue programme - the joy of life displayed by these beautiful, recovered bears and the devastating sadness surrounding the demise of each and every one of them.
Thank you Benjamin for joining us in sending Simba on his way, and thanks to all our supporters for changing the lives of both bears.
After years under Kati's care in Pan Yue, Digger joined our Chengdu family in 2009.
Life, love, liberty - radiating from Simba's happy face. A joyful bear who loved to play.
Jill and Benjamin Zephaniah join the team to say goodbye to Simba on a doubly-sad day at the centre.