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Tributes for Franzi

Thank you all so very much for your good wishes and beautiful thoughts for Franzi, which are still coming in. Not surprisingly, so many people were heartbroken that she had passed away, but no one more than her own team of caring bear workers here in Chengdu.

Tiger and Wang Li had looked after Franzi for the past three years and had some lovely memories of when she and Rupert snuggled up together – so warm and contented in each other's company. They also shared one of their favourite smiles watching Franzi chewing seeds and nuts – and how she had a unique way of chewing them, oh so slowly, before spitting out the shell. In fact this touching moment is caught on the Animal Planet film “Moon Bears: Journey to Freedom”. How we miss those memories of a very special bear.

Wen Yan, one of our translators also reminded me how Peejou, the cat, will miss Franzi too. Peejou had an instinct that Franzi wouldn't mind her exploring her secret garden and indeed she never did – the picture here proves the point perfectly.

Her funeral was beautiful – bear carers and admin staff alike gathered around to say goodbye, while her favourite treats were lovingly placed on her tiny body to keep her company wherever her journey takes her next.

Standing at the graveside, we heard Charlie, Franzi's Bear Manager, suggesting that we should save the plot next to Franzi for her devoted “toy boy”, Rupert. And indeed we will for a day hopefully far in the future, because she adored him – and he her.

More tributes came in from people like our vet nurse, Hayley:
I never want to see any bears on the post mortem table, but Franzi is one of those that I truly hoped I would never have to help with. It just won’t seem real. She is the bear that sticks most in my mind when I first went to Jill's talk in the UK over four years ago, so meeting her was like meeting a celebrity! She has been a star to the end though, and Rupert’s area just won’t be the same.

From our Senior Bear Manager, Nic:
I think she was the first bear I weighed. The little madam was on to me and knew I was new to it all. She happily came into the weigh cage but refused to leave. Myself and Anna tried every which way to get her out and it was some two hours later that she did venture out – on her terms, of course.


She was – and still is – an institution. Forever an ambassador for all moon bears incarcerated. Her physical presence may be gone, but her fight will go on in spirit forever.

From our Marketing Director, Juanita:
What a precious soul. May she rest in peace in a beautiful sanctuary with Andrew and Mafi and Willow and Peace and Chengdu Truth and all our bears, and the many others unnamed by uncaring farmers, but named by us. I have no doubt who would emerge boss and soon find some poor unassuming fella to peel her grapes.

From supporters like Lee in the UK:
I'm sure I'm one of thousands reading your story of Franzi's last hours (for the umpteenth time) with tears streaming down my face. Tears for her life of torture on the farm and laughter for her cheeky antics especially the farty ones. Only one consolation – Franzi stopped shedding tears and put her dreadful time behind her on the day she slurped her first and best ever fruit drink in the sanctuary. Everyone in Chengdu will miss that little bear with her huge heart.

From Eva in Germany:
Goodbye little bear and be sure, we will liberate all your brothers and sisters, who are sitting still in their jails. They shall not lose their hope.

From ex-Animal Welfare Director Mark in the UK:

She was a bear that will always remain firmly embedded in my mind as a symbol of both how cruel and how kind human beings can be, and of the forgiving nature of animals.

From Natascia and Tiziana in Italy:
So much pain and sadness for the death of Franzi.... Thank you Jill and all the staff for having given her 7 years of LIFE and LOVE.

From ex-vet nurse, Claire:
A special memory of mine is the time when I reported to you that I was worried she wasn’t eating, so added more jam, but still not interested so added more! As we walked back together to see how she was, ALL of the food had gone – not even any evidence that she had been offered anything in the first place! Not a single morsel. She must have slurped it all up as soon as I left, making me look a bloody fool – she had been trying it on with me for more of that sugar!!! We just both burst out laughing......cheeky little bear.

… and from ex vet nurse/bear manager Anne-Marie:

My heart lurched when I read the heading “Farewell to Franzi”. It was the e-mail I know you never wanted to write. For so long she had defied her own failing body and amazed us all with her ability to rally after bouts of ill health. How could such a small stature house be such a powerhouse of resilience, stubbornness and unique charm? God help us if she had been the size of her character!!

Her time before the centre was a tragedy, but her life on the other hand was a triumph. So, as I say goodbye I will remember a small, bossy, cantankerous bear who ruled Rupert and bear workers alike. Who cared nothing for ceremony and would pass gas from both ends regardless of which dignitary came to visit HER den. Who lived her life on HER terms. Her moon will forever shine in our memories and her tiny paw prints remain forever in the hearts of the people whose lives she touched. Thank you Franzi for the honour of knowing you.

I hope you smiled through these as I did. Franzi was the most perfect example of an individual bear determined to shrug off her years of torture and live every day that was all about her. Here is the final picture taken by Rainbow minutes before she died and which then found it’s way onto the front page, no less, of one of Chengdu’s top newspapers.

Saying a final goodbye, recalling the time when we opened the doors from her new den into her very own secret garden so many years ago and watched in floods of tears as she said “thank you” as only she could. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

Jan 2004
She investigated every nook and cranny, she went into a pool which Claire said she wouldn't touch, she scrambled over rocks which I said she’d never go near, she climbed up the wall to get a view of her human neighbour :), she hugged a tree (look at her little clawless paws), and she ran and ran and ran like a lamb in spring. Jx

And lastly, a lovely tribute from Tele in our Hong Kong office:

And today, it seems that Tolstoy’s immortal words were written just for her: “Every man and every living creature has the sacred right to the gladness of spring.”

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