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Thank you Else and friends!

We had some wonderful visitors on site the other week - many of them "bear" people and all of them passionate about wildlife. The dream of the visit was sparked in 2007 when I was invited to make the keynote speech at the annual BIERZS (Bear Information Exchange for Rehabilitators, Zoos and Sanctuaries) conference in the USA. 

Else Poulsen, one of the organisers of the conference (who is also an ex-bearkeeper and bear behaviourist and has recently written a wonderful book, “Smiling Bears”, to be published next year), and I hit it off straight away and I invited her out to our sanctuary. 

Else took the idea further and decided that it would be a terrific opportunity to bring people who had expertise with bears and enrichment to come along too and the next thing we knew a select group had joined us on site which saw us swapping ideas over the next three days. 

We had bearkeeper Lydia Fogal, enrichment volunteers: Judy Willard, Carrie McIntyre, Carol Bresnay and Tom Roy, animal health technician Gail Hedberg and of course Else herself. Here they are with Else in the middle (in black).

From start to finish, everyone happily immersed themselves in helping our gorgeous moon bears – giving lectures about their work to our staff, helping to enrich the bears' lives making beautiful and very effective toys and paper mache “piñatas” filled with bear treats for them to play with and popping into the surgery to see the odd health-check. Caesar was certainly thrilled with her piñata!

It was good to have this lovely group of people on site – and to know that we’ll be meeting again at the next BIERZS conference in 2009. 

The days before they arrived, the weather had been terrible – heavy rain and flooding all across the sanctuary - but, of course, the bears loved it. They were having a great time using their long, strong claws to tweak insects out of the soft ground in their opportunist way, and prompting lovely Eric, one of our Chinese translators to let us know excitedly on the walkie-talkie that the bears were digging for “underground citizens”. Never a dull moment.

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