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13 precious survivors left

First of all a huge thank you to all of you who sent such kind and inspiring “birthday” messages on Animals Asia’s 10th anniversary. I wish I had the time to reply to you all individually, but I’m sure you understand …

Many of you also asked after our latest batch of bears, so let me give you an update. Of the 28 bears we received at the end of March in China, over half have died - nine of them from liver cancer.

As we bury each bear with love and respect – the only love they have ever known – we console ourselves with the knowledge that in the end, these bears had felt a bond with members of a species who tried so hard to help, rather than hurt, them and who will never stop fighting to end the industry that snuffed out their lives.

The new bears still recovering are not out of the woods by a long chalk, but responding well to surgery, medication and the five-star care of all in our team.

One quite novel introduction into their lives has been the sounds of music. Nic, our Senior Bear Manager recently updated me on the mood of the month as we walked around the quarantine area together. A favourite CD just now is Mozart’s “Concertos for Clarinet, Oboe and Bassoon”. We smiled as Rhonda lay back and breathed in the classical music, with the only thing missing a glass of iced lemonade and a sun hat.

A slightly different mood followed - with The Beatles playing “A Yellow Submarine” and perhaps more pertinently, “The Long and Winding Road” which filled the room with a glorious resonance of calm and good vibes. As the weeks go on, we hear exceptionally positive feedback from Bear Team Leader Xiao Chen and her team - that the bears clearly enjoy the melodic addition to their daily life and routine.

Haribo (previously nicknamed “Poodley”) has beaten all the odds, recovering from a particularly tricky surgery, and just looks - and obviously feels - glorious. The attention-seeking raspberry sounds he made when he first came in are back, heralding a bear in robustly good health. We’re now looking forward to integrating Haribo with his new-found friends in adjacent recovery cages. Bear Manager Donata snapped him yesterday looking as endearing as ever:

One of those friends is George (Chinese nickname “Xiao Howard” after our wonderful Bear Team Supervisor) who is learning some table manners at last before he's released into the great outdoors. Previously, he'd been particularly choosy about food, leaving his zoo pellet diet, but making sure that every last shred of cabbage was sucked from his bowl.

As we told him, any bear that is this choosy is going to be against some serious competition from more "normal" members of this food-motivated and particularly greedy species! That seemed to do the trick and the last bear report simply read "George loves his food, hoovering it up within 5 minutes!" Now that's more like it George.

Egmont (formerly nicknamed “Eyeore”) has bloomed into a healthy, glossy mammoth of a bear. A chunky monkey, she is divine and responding well to major overdoses of good food and tender, loving care.

Gorgeous Wilfred (who we nicknamed “Watermelon” when he arrived) - loves everything about his life. Time and time again, we emphasise that we don't have favourites, but there is something so special about this bear who has wriggled his way into everyone's hearts. Just look at this gentle face (again, snapped by Donata):

Despite his past life, despite the chips being down 24 hours of every day on the farm and despite the fact that he is blind, Wilfred has blossomed into a bear who epitomises the forgiving nature of this remarkable species.

Nothing phases or upsets him, and he wakes to each new day with the calm and interested demeanour of a bear that knows he is protected, respected and very much loved.

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