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).
Born in England, Jill can't ever remember a time when she didn't love animals. Fulfilling a yearning to help and be with them during her teens, she worked as a part-time veterinary assistant at the local surgery and a pooper-scooper at a nearby cattery, while fundraising for international animal welfare groups.
Her career at Thames Television was interrupted in 1985 when husband John suggested they move to Hong Kong. Although not having a clue what she'd do once there, she agreed straight away, believing that the opportunity had presented itself for a reason.
Once here, that reason quickly materialised, and Jill found herself sick to her stomach with how animals were suffering in Asia. While working for local veterinary surgeons, she met the Asia representative of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), David Dawson, and began working with him across the region documenting cruelty. Jill learned from him that many factors outside of deliberate cruelty were contributing to the problems facing animals. Once David left Hong Kong, Jill continued working with IFAW as its Asia consultant for the next 11 years on programmes throughout the region, before founding Animals Asia in August 1998.
In 1991, she founded "Dr Dog", the first animal-therapy programme in Hong Kong and subsequently in China, Taiwan, The Philippines, India, Japan and Malaysia.
In 1993, a chance visit to a bear farm in southern China changed Jill's life and, on learning how bear bile could be replaced by herbs, she embarked on a promise to end bear bile farming once and for all.
In 1995, she secured the release of the original bears she had discovered in 1993.
In 1998, she founded Animals Asia and in July 2000 she and the Animals Asia team signed a breakthrough agreement with the Chinese authorities to rescue 500 farmed bears and work towards promoting herbal alternatives to bile and the elimination of bear farming. This was the beginning of the Moon Bear Rescue project.
In 2006, Animals Asia signed an agreement with the Vietnam government to rescue 200 bears.
As part of Animals Asia’s “End Bear Farming” campaign, the Moon Bear Rescue has to date, recovered almost 400 bears from farms in China and Vietnam, shutting down those farms for good.
The Moon Bear Rescue Centres — Animal Asia’s sanctuaries for the bears set up in Vietnam and China – are spearheading far-reaching community, education and welfare programmes, which benefit both animals and people alike.
Jill divides her time between living in China with the bears, living in Hong Kong with her five cats and four dogs, staying on site at the second bear sanctuary in Vietnam, and giving presentations around the world on the work of Animals Asia.
Jill is a Council Member of the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies (WFCMS) Herbal Committee, a former member of the Hong Kong Government’s Animal Welfare Advisory Group and an Honorary Adviser to the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong.
Awards and commendations
1995: Presented with the Readers Digest “Hero for Today” award.
1998: Awarded an MBE by Queen Elizabeth in the Birthday Honours List, in recognition of her services to animal welfare in Asia.
2002: Presented with the USA Genesis Award (the only major media and arts award concerning animal issues).
2005: Won the Marchig Animal Welfare Award for lifetime achievement in animal welfare.
2006: Awarded the Winsome Constance Kindness Trust Gold Medal for Humanitarian Service.
2007: Presented with the St Francis of Assisi Award by the Auckland New Zealand Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
2008: Named “Outstanding Earth Champion” in Hong Kong.
2008: Appointed World Animal Day Ambassador for Asia.
2009: Awarded the Medaglia Città di Genova (City of Genoa Medal) by the Mayor of Genoa and the Medal of the Legislative Assembly of the Regional Council of Liguria, Italy from the vice president of the Regional Council symbolising the support and gratitude of the Italian government in recognition of services to animal welfare in Asia.
2009: Elected as Council Member of the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies (WFCMS) Herbal Committee.
2010: Jill was awarded a "You Bring Charm to China” award at a ceremony held by Phoenix Satellite Television and Tianjin TV to recognise 12 prominent foreigners, who have enriched life in China through their contributions to business, education, medical care, disaster relief, or environmental protection.
2010: Awarded with the Gold Medal of Naples by the Mayor’s representative in Italy.
2010: Elected as a Member of the Society of Woman Geographers in the USA.
2011: Awarded with the annual Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries Award which recognised Animals Asia’s bear sanctuaries in China and Vietnam jointly as the world’s best sanctuary of 2010.
2011: Awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Zurich, Switzerland.