Welcome to an exciting new world

It's so good to be back in Chengdu, but boy did I miss something special last week. While I was with the Professor Paws team in Guangzhou, life at the sanctuary was no less crazy for the team here.

The day we had all been waiting for dawned bright and sunny as our 12 newly rescued bears cautiously walked out of their recovery cages and into their new dens for the first time.

I so wanted to be here to share their first steps, but lived it gulping through the emotional emails that came rolling in from Senior Bear Manager Nic and Senior Vet Heather as they recounted a truly heart-warming day.

Out of 28 bears that arrived at the end of March, 16 tragically died from their wounds and diseases - their legacy from their time on the farms. The 12 remaining bears have been raised as lovingly as children by our caring team on site, ensuring that their introduction to a world of space and friends to play with was as comfortable as it could possibly be.

This move has been meticulously planned from start to finish by people who have spent the past six months getting to know the bears' characters, their likes and dislikes and every facet of their personalities, to understand how best to implement this first phase of their release and integration.

Our staff know these bears as if they'd raised them from cubs and this day was dedicated to them all.

I remember how sweet, short-legged Poodley (now Haribo) arrived in the ghastly cage that had crushed him for years ... the attention-seeking "raspberry" sounds he made with his mouth when he realised that my shorts pockets contained an endless supply of sticky gummy bears, which he would gleefully hoover one by one. And to envisage him now, shuffling into a world outside of a cage that had pinned him down for so long. Here he is saying hello to one of his neighbours:

Blind Watermelon (now Wilfred) too plodded into his new world without fear of anyone hurting him ever again, and the whole exciting experience of getting to know his new neighbours at either side of his den.

Bears that never had free access to water on the farms now gleefully plunged chubby bottoms into their cement water bowls, delighting in a sensation that would be so natural in the wild. Food in abundance, toys to play with and the sun on their fur.

Here (from top), George, Gypsy and Juniper explore their new dens:

One day soon, after they've explored their new homes for a while, the den doors will be opened onto something never, ever, experienced before. Grass. This time I won't be anywhere but here – crying like a baby with our Chinese and Western staff as we celebrate together the lives of the bears returned.

Please click here to read the moving stories from Nic and Heather of our bears now walking free.

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