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).
1 April 2010: The Ching Ming or “Grave-sweeping” Festival, when Chinese families tend to the graves of their ancestors, falls on 6 April this year. As many of our local Chengdu staff will be enjoying the holiday with their families, we held our own special festival this week to honour the rescued bears that are buried in our graveyard.
The remains of the 99 bears we have lost over the years lie peacefully here by the river – among them our first rescued bear, Andrew; our beloved little Franzi; and our “Freedom Moon” book cover girl, Mafi. Also resting among our friends is Peace, the bear who tragically died on the way from his farm prison to a new life at the sanctuary in March 2008.
Our Moon Bear Rescue Centre in Chengdu has upheld the Ching Ming tradition over many years – both for the bears resting in our peaceful graveyard, and for all the other animals that have joined our Animals Asia family over the years.
The students honour the bears through music and original poetry.
In the days leading up to the celebration, staff at the rescue centre were busy re-engraving, painting and varnishing the names and dedications on all tombstones which were cleaned and dusted in advance, and tidying and weeding the graveyard area.
On this very special day, we welcomed to the graveyard 50 children and teachers of Zongbei Primary School, who had come to pay their respects to the bears we have loved and lost.
The children had made flower garlands and wreaths, cards made from paper crescent moons and bear heads, and lovingly laid them on every grave. One child’s simple wish for the bears, written on her card, said it all: “Wish you have a happy life in heaven – hope nobody will hurt you any more”. Two students played haunting melodies on saxophone and violin, while others read their own touching poems. All promised the bears would never be forgotten and that they would do everything in their power to help Animals Asia end bear farming.
Jill spoke with the students and thanked them for being such wonderful ambassadors and asked them never to forget their role helping all animals in China, and always to honour the moon and be guided by it as they continue to help stop bear farming.
Later Jill said: "We have all been very touched to see the children so gently and sensitively helping the bears, but find it incredibly frustrating that this group of 10-year-olds understands the plight of the bears so well, while the practice still carries on."
These children offer hope for animals in China. Vice-headmaster Mr Lin Jiarui said: "Zongbei Primary School pays much attention to environmental protection education. We hope our students can be the change needed in the long term for animal protection. We also ask students not to buy any bile products to support the bear rescue.”