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).
US Director, Alice Ng, takes part in the rescue operation in Shandong Province, April 2010.
Animals Asia's US Director, Alice Ng has just returned from China where she took part in the dramatic rescue of 10 bears from Shandong province. This is a first-hand account of the rescue written by Alice:
It is 6.30am at the Moon Bear Rescue Center in Chengdu, China and the air is still and damp. There is hardly a stir on site except for the early morning birds flittering about the bear enclosures. I can hear a soft snore coming from the bear dens across from my accommodations, and I smile to myself wondering what the bear is dreaming about.
My bags are packed and the car for the airport is waiting outside my room. Not wanting to wake anyone, I tiptoe out to the car and blow a kiss towards the dens as I leave, bidding our bears farewell. After spending three weeks on the ground in China, Hong Kong and Vietnam, I feel sad to leave Asia. The purpose of my trip was to visit the sanctuaries with supporters, but when news came that we would be rescuing 10 bears just around the time of my departure, I took the opportunity to extend my stay and accompany the vet and bear teams to Weihai, Shandong Province. It would be the first time I would ever set foot on a bear farm.
Walking into that farm on Monday, 19 April, was like walking into a nightmare. Ten bears lined up in cages along the wall in a building that reeked of urine. One by one, I walked past the cages and saw gaping holes in the abdomens of bears dripping with blood and pus-infected bile. As the bears peered back at me, one extended its paw out with eyes that pleaded for help. I stood inside the building for a few minutes, and tearfully tried to wrap my head around why someone would inflict such pain and suffering on these beautiful creatures.
Outside, the teams expertly formulated a plan and, within minutes, began to lay out the floor plan for what would be our "hospital" for the next 12 hours. After continuous rounds of health-checks that lasted well into the night, our bears were finally loaded on to the trucks and began their pilgrimage across China to their new home at our Moon Bear Rescue Center.
The visit to the farm and the four-day journey that followed will be etched into my memory for the rest of my life. It was an emotional roller coaster, ranging from heart-wrenching pain in seeing a bear farm to overwhelming pride in watching our vet and bear teams so tenderly care for our bears on the long ride home.
I will never forget our brown bear Oliver, and the look of concern on the faces of our vet team when his condition worsened while we were on the road. When the decision was made to perform emergency gall bladder surgery to save his life, everyone including local policemen, doctors and everyday citizens came to his aid. Westerners and Chinese alike worked together to help Oliver, and seeing this collaboration gave me great hope for the future.
I can't help but feel we are at the turning of the tide… I watch with great anticipation and belief that bear farming will come to an end. And when I look at these bears, I'm reminded of a few lines from the poem, "Spirit of Hope". This poem is lovingly read at the funeral service whenever one of our bears dies. These lines from the poem perfectly sum up the spirit of our work: "Please look upon the others and give them promise of hope soon, and tell them to be patient, and proudly wear the moon."