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).
"It's 7pm and all the bears are now back in their dens enjoying a cooling shower, having seen a day packed to the brim with foraging and playing in the sun. Even now, we can hear grunts and squeals as they enjoy just one more game, before settling down for the night in their hanging basket beds. This is our turn to walk around their grassy enclosure; collecting their toys and making a final check, before sitting for a while on top of their picnic table and watching their antics in the dens. 3- legged Andrew has recently been integrated with Belton Kleberg - a bear who arrived last September in such a pitiful condition we didn't dare hope he'd survive. Today, Belton, missing his back leg, and Andrew missing his front, make a poignant but comical sight, as they roll around in play with 6 limbs between them flailing in the air!
Scenes like this are what the rescue is all about - and it can now proceed even more quickly because at long, long last the all important government contracts have been signed, giving us the green light to start on the construction of the bears' new permanent home in the bamboo forest!
Architects, construction engineers and builders, are now putting their hearts and souls into creating one of the most innovative projects of its kind in the world. As CNN recently reported, the plans are already showing an inspiring and exciting sanctuary which will give the bears everything they were denied on the farms.
Project Director, Boris, is on a tight schedule to finish the first natural forest phase by mid-September and to expand our veterinary and rescue area as a base for the ongoing rescue of 500 bears. In just a few weeks, we'll be waving goodbye to 30 healthy bears who have been with us since October 2000, as they disappear into their permanent bamboo forest home. As they explore an environment only dreamed of before, Aussie, Jasper, Erl, Douglas and friends are making room for the arrival of dozens more sick and terrified caged bears who'll be released from more farms in August.
Last month saw the closure of China's 31st farm and, once again, we waited feeling sick to the stomach as a truck loaded with 5 pitiful bears arrived at our gates. Two had shocking hernias ballooning from their abdomens; an old, small male had a grotesquely swollen head and one unhappy boy howled hauntingly from his cage. Vet Gail and Nurse Bev immediately got to work examining and prioritising for surgery, whilst making sure that the stressed and parched animals were showered down and given fresh water and fruit.
All bears were found to be victims of the "free dripping" method and Gail wasted no time in anaesthetising a bear with a hernia the size of a water melon and commencing life-saving surgery which would last over 6 hours.
Tragically, the free dripping method was the last of little "Mouse's" problems. Affectionately named because his swollen head reminded us of a strange little hamster, Mouse initially settled in well, but ate his much loved mango and digestive biscuits slowly and with obvious difficulty. Despite the hope of everyone that the swelling was caused by an injury trauma or abscessed tooth, it was obvious when Gail examined him on the surgery table that this old, emaciated bear had a huge tumor which was beyond our help. In front of a BBC crew from the "Really Wild Show" who touchingly shared our grief, this brave boy was gently put to sleep and was buried with a cross on his grave.
Today, happiness is watching our latest arrivals finishing off their enormous bowls of food, laying on their backs and "asking" for a shower to cool them down. Now stretching for the first time in roomy recovery cages, Chris, Petz, Hebe and Black Magic are clearly contented bears.
Thankfully, the BBC crew were also witness to happier moments. The table in the enclosure was the scene of a real life Teddy Bears' Picnic one sunny day and no less than 27 bears were filmed hurtling out of their dens like runners in the London Marathon. As they leapt onto the table laden with treats made by the Chinese International School, pastry plates, marzipan monsters, and bowls brimming with fruit were all devoured within seconds, whilst lovely presenter Michaela Strachan tried to portray a serious message in the midst of all the chaos.
Although impossible to forget the thousands caged on farms; living through each sweltering summer, or denied the chance to hibernate in bitter winters, the joy of seeing even the 1% of previously farmed bears here today in Chengdu is indescribable. Bears like Jasper whose barbaric cage literally "crushed" him to the floor for years - now the most friendly and fun-loving bear whose life is lived to the full.
With YOUR faith and help, the sanctuary is being built, bears are coming home and we are moving ever closer to our goal of ending this despicable trade by the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
From all of us in the team, grateful thanks and big bear hugs, Jill."
AAF team & Govt. officials after signing
Boris supervising construction staff
5 bears arrive in a terrible condition
"Petz" before sugery to repair a huge hernia
"Mouse" - sadly, we could not save him
The BBC film Michaela & team lifting a bear
"Freedom" (missing both front paws) at the picnic!