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Our special visitors in Chengdu

Another exciting week with the bears in Chengdu, with a visit by long-standing friend and ally Harriet Tung and her husband, Tung Chee Chen (CC), who is the brother of Hong Kong’s first Chief Executive, Tung Chee Hwa.

It was such a pleasure to see Harriet again. She has helped us so kindly and enthusiastically over the past couple of years with meetings in Beijing together with our government partners, the CWCA, and with endorsements at press conferences in China calling on bear farming to end. Now, here she was with her husband, Chairman of shipping giant Orient Overseas (International) Limited, meeting our resident team and bears, and joining teachers and students from a local Chengdu primary school who were visiting us too. 

Harriet and CC happily toured the sanctuary – first visiting the Education Room where they witnessed the crush cages, full metal jackets and a horribly diseased liver of one of the bears that has died from cancer. We also showed them all the products currently using bear bile, including toothpaste and wine, and updated them both about our TCM campaign with 33 pharmacists – and how we recently burned such products in the streets of Chengdu.

CC was upset to see the pictures of our rescued bears, which so obscenely showed the physical and psychological problems associated with caging these animals and extracting their bile. As Rainbow updated them on our education work, CC and Harriet were both particularly supportive of these programmes that engage the government and public in China to understand the truth behind the industry. 

Then we walked over to the hospital where Marie was having her health-check. Laid out on the surgery table with her back left limb missing from being caught in the wild in a snare or leghold trap, she was a very clear example to CC and Harriet that the farmers continue to engage in illegal practices in order to restock their farms. After watching Veterinary Director Heather and team examine Marie’s abdomen with the help of an ultrasound, they were relieved to find nothing abnormal. Following the removal of two incisor teeth, Marie was soon recovering and ready to go back to her den. 

We then walked over to the brown bear enclosures, where Caesar, Benji and Poupouce were lying out in the grass, and on to Houses 2 and 3 where Jasper, Banjo, Aussie and the bears there were enjoying the spring weather and swimming and foraging for food. 

On past our new special-care areas of Bamboo and River Houses, where CC and Harriet said hello to our elderly bears, Crystal, Jurgen and blind NIC, and then on to see our well-worn teddy bear, Asia, whose bear-farm past sees a compromised immune system and seasonal hair loss and skin irritation at this time of year. After watching her new visitors, she hopped down from her viewing post to get a better look at us from ground level before wandering off to have a mid-morning snack. 

We then went to the graveyard, where over 50 children and teachers of a local primary school had gathered to pay their respects and help us with a specialgrave-sweeping ceremony for the bears we had loved and lost. The children had made flower garlands and wreaths, paper crescent moons and bear heads, and lovingly laid them on every grave. One child played the saxophone, another the violin, while other children read touching poems saying the bears would never be forgotten and that they would do everything in their power to help Animals Asia end bear farming. 

Harriet and CC kindly laid a wreath at Andrew's grave and I thanked the children for being such wonderful ambassadors and asked them never to forget their role of helping all animals in China, and always to honour the moon and be guided by it as they continue to help bear farming end. 

Then it was time to go over to see Harriet and CC’s bear, Dong Fong Hai Wai in House 10. He was outside when we arrived, wandering happily around the grassy enclosure before deciding to go back into the den, climb into his hanging-basket bed and take a nap. 

We went inside to try and coax him out so that Harriet and CC could feed him some apple, but he was obviously a sleepy bear having played all morning with his friends, and refused to budge. But such a change from the depressed and battered bear that arrived with us last February.

On to in Houses 5 and 6 to see the disabled bears missing limbs, toothless, blind, etc – but not in the least concerned about their disabilities and all out romping with their friends, enjoying the spring day. 

Finally back to the Education Centre, where CC and Harriet watched the children happily making enrichment toys for the bears and stuffing bamboo and kongs (tough rubber dog toys) with honey, nuts, jam and fruit – a novel enrichment for the bears’ afternoon feed. 

Our grateful thanks, once again to you both for being such kind and supportive voices for the bears. 

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