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The rescue begins ... 28 bears arrive

It is so hard to know how to start. Yesterday when we knew more bears were on their way to our China sanctuary, we were realistic enough to know that some would be in very poor shape and in urgent need of medical attention, but we also allowed ourselves to feel some excitement and hope. We had to.

Nothing had prepared us for what we were about to witness. The anguish and despair on the faces of these poor souls will haunt me forever. The terror, the agony in the harrowing looks that greeted us as the team gently lifted their cages from the backs of the trucks. These majestic animals had been drained of all hope, their lives lived in the absence of all decency…

I watched as the bear workers poured their grief and horror into their physical labour. These fine Sichuan men, eight to a cage, with eyes straight ahead and metal lifting-bars grinding into their shoulders, are the pall-bearers of the living dead. I watched as the vet and bear team bravely blank out their pain, clearly stunned by the level of atrocity, but determinedly professional, focused totally on the job of saving these bears from any further injustice.

The three trucks carrying the bears arrived at 8pm last night (Monday, China time). The stench coming from the cages gave us some warning of what lay ahead. One poor bear was dead on arrival, his rake-thin body, still warm, grotesquely disfigured by smouldering wounds that had rotted down to the bone. We named him “Peace” and instinctively reached to hold his skeletal paw.

By midnight, all the bears had been unloaded and settled into two long poly-tunnels, the start of a long night.

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