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Panto perfection!

Everybody loves a panto at Christmas and we were no different as nearly 300 of us sat in the audience at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London cheering and jeering when the goodies and baddies did their best and worst.

There was gorgeous big Baloo Bear and Kaa the snake with Mowgli, all battling to overcome the evil tiger, Shere Khan. Right always wins – especially at the panto – and we all had a fabulous time.

The actors were amazing and really celebrated the emotions of the animals – showing that yes indeed we are not the only species to experience joy, sadness and a mischievous nature.

This has always been one of my frustrations – hearing scientists saying that we should “prove” that our animals can have any sort of feeling. Just recently, Austrian scientists “discovered” that dogs can feel jealousy. Well goodness me. Anyone who has dogs will know instantly that of course dogs get jealous.

Of course our bears experience joy and of course they can be sad. Bears like Mafi are mischievous too – especially when they playfully nip the bottom of a friend whose back is turned and then gleefully run away.

It may not be the same joy, sadness or mischievousness, but it is their version of these emotions and that is why we love working with them every second of every day to bring out those joyful senses so long suppressed on the farms.

But back to the panto! The cast was amazing and thanks to the Birmingham Stage Company and its wonderful Director, Neil Foster who dreamed the whole evening up for Animals Asia, it raised some much needed funds for the bears too.

We were joined by some wonderful celebrities, including our UK patron (and my dear friend and mentor) Virginia McKenna OBE actress and Founder of the Born Free Foundation:

We were also thrilled to have with us Terry Waite CBE (humanitarian, author and former hostage), Naomie Harris (who starred in Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3), and our long-term supporter Martin Roberts from BBC’s “Homes under the Hammer”.

Martin took full advantage of the feel-good factor and raised a further £2,000 (over the funds for the tickets) from the very generous audience fighting over six kindly donated auction items.

Grateful thanks to the management of the UCL Bloomsbury Theatre and, as ever, to our tireless UK team headed up on this fundraiser by our Nicky, who ran around right up until everyone went home keeping things in line.

It was one of the best pantos I’ve ever seen (oh no it wasn’t .....OH YES IT WAS!) – and it was topped off the next morning when my 10-year-old niece, Nicole, said that she’d kissed Jasper the cat and told him she loved him – because she knew that he loved her too.

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