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).
"Many challenges faced the Animals Asia team in 2002, but one of the biggest was the race against time to complete the first phase of our bamboo forest sanctuary. It was crucial for our existing healthy bears to be moved into their new forest home as quickly as possible, to make space in the Rescue Centre for a new group of farmed bears.
The construction team, worked around the clock - long hours often dictated by the regular power cuts that were sweeping China in the wake of the terrible summer floods. As one set of new forest dens became ready bears were coaxed into transport cages, loaded onto trucks and moved gently into the new thatched roof dens which opened onto pristine forest.
Then on a cold and misty day in mid-December, the bears and Animals Asia were proudly joined by officials from Beijing and Sichuan, the US Ambassador David Bleyle, journalists from CNN, Associated Press, Agence France Presse and a huge array of Chinese TV and print journalists, who amassed at the Rescue Centre to celebrate the opening of the first phase of the forested sanctuary.
As the cameras rolled, journalists and guests alike were briefed during a speech given by Mr. Chen Run Shen, Secretary General of the China Wildlife Conservation Association who reaffirmed our July 2000 Agreement to rescue 500 bears - and made the Government's position crystal clear: "On behalf of the Chinese Central Government we will continue to support the work of the Animals Asia Foundation and, together with AAF, we will achieve our final objective of terminating bear farming in China."
As if to emphasise this point, the Government officials then ascended the steps of our Moon Bear Rescue Hospital and posed for photographs as they cut open the cage of young 3-legged Harvey - one of our newest arrivals.
These events are unforgettable but, so too, is the fact that many thousands of bears remain on farms and our work has only just begun. This hit home just two weeks prior to the sanctuary opening when, again, we waited on the steps of the hospital as 17 sad bears arrived at our doorstep....
Our feelings were as one on that cold December day as the trucks pulled up and we off loaded cage after cage of sad, frightened, tortured bears, and reflected how, as a race, had we sunk so low? Our apprehension grew when we discovered that three of the new arrivals were refusing to eat - knowing that a lack of appetite often meant that a bear was close to death. As Gail anaesthetised each one, it was no comfort to have this instinct confirmed as, one by one, they were sadly euthanised after she found they had massive, inoperable tumours.
Mercifully, other bears began to slowly pull through. Pitiful little Franzi; an old wizened female, one third of the size she should be, with her teeth and claws brutally hacked back, slowly overcame her fear as she cautiously sucked on strawberry fruitshake and nibbled on apple after painstakingly peeling each small piece.
Today, the crosses of the 3 cancer victims mark the place where they are buried in the bears' graveyard - but their memory lives on in the forest opposite where bears, like Sausage, who made a miraculous recovery, now awaken to days bursting with adventure!
The groundswell of support we are seeing in mainland China itself belies the belief that Asian people just don't care. Many care deeply and have enthusiastically joined the China Bear Rescue, which now sees the whole issue of bear farming being aired for the first time, in the public arena of it's birth. People like Li Li from Beijing, who came to our sanctuary and generously handed over precious funds she had collected from her friends and family, whilst tearfully struggling to come to terms with such cruelty in her own country.
If we are going to make significant headway from here on out, it can only be with the momentum of support from people in China, like Li Li, who wholeheartedly support our aims. As plans for our unique Education Village forge ahead, we are committed to developing a public facility which will be unlike anything ever seen before in China. Our Moon Bear Sanctuary will become a "village of education" abounding with fun, innovative teaching programmes and environmental messages of love and respect for animals. It will serve to awaken and inspire adults and children alike as it brings alive the concept of animal welfare and shows why it is so important to appreciate a species such as the bear for its own sake, rather than how it can benefit humankind.
The words of Tolstoy reflect the view of the team today as we continue with the rescue and our goal of ending bear farming - "Every man and every living creature has a sacred right to the gladness of Springtime". But it is only with the generous help and support of caring people like you, that we can fulfill our promise to give as many bears as possible their first glimpse of Spring.
From all of us in Animals Asia, grateful thanks and big bear hugs, Jill."
Moving bears to their new forest home
Official opening of the Moon Bear Rescue Centre
Harvey undergoes health check in front of media
Truckloads of new bears arrive
Franzi - her cage so small, her growth was stunted