Welcoming old friends and new

It was good to see many old friends from Germany again and to meet such lovely new friends too. Faces glowing and so excited to catch up with all the development in China as they waited to greet Jasper and friends in house 2, and to be introduced to Oliver who was recently released into his new den and enclosure in House 10.

Monika, whose talented partner Josef Haeusel had taken photos on their previous visit – presented the sanctuary with two gorgeous pictures of the bears. The picture of Rupert especially was stunning and made me cry – his calm and contented eyes gazed into the camera lens and the memories came flooding back of our most beautiful “bear with little brain”, who passed away earlier this year.

There was Peggy, Klaus, Annette, Josef (Pepe) and Brigitte, Ulrike and Michael – and of course, Eva who created such beautiful moon bear wrapping paper (with the kind help of Mr Krone back in Germany who produced and offered it for sale). Thank you Eva for sending the pictures of your day! And last but not least was lovely Chinese tour guide Yang.

First priority for these generous supporters was to drop off packets and packets of gummy bears which can be used as occasional treats for the bears – especially when training them to stand for what our vet team describes as an “abdomen check”. We sent some packets over to the team in Vietnam, and here is vet nurse Caroline on site in Tam Dao offering bears Clover and Anne their gummies as they stand in a perfect pose and show off their tums.

Also together with the group were Andrea and Jeannette from Switzerland – Andrea also on her second visit – and both reduced to tears on the roof of House 10 when the den doors opened and Oliver made his clumsy way outside. 

Not the most elegant bear in the world – well, after 30 caged on a farm in the north of China, how could he be? But he meandered slowly and purposefully across the grass, stopping every now and then to stuff a whole juicy tomato in his mouth – or crack open a coconut with his huge and powerful jaws. Who knows how long Oliver has left considering the life span of this species is around 30 years, but his quality of life is indescribable and he crams fun and contentment into his days as if he knows he is living on borrowed time. 

While our visitors were on site, we also had ophthalmologists from the UK checking and improving the sight of bears with various eye problems – and of course the group was thrilled to be able to go in and out of the surgery throughout the day checking up on bears lying on the table as David, Claudia and Kerry worked with our Chengdu vet team in an exhausting round of health-checks and procedures. More on their visit in another blog.

The day ended with a vegetarian banquet on the roof of Houses 5 and 6 and the group creeping downstairs into the bears dens to see them all asleep in their beds at the end of the day. This is one of my favourite parts of the tour – to see our residents snug and warm and safe and looking forward to a snooze of around 14 hours until they are woken up for breakfast at 8am the next day. 

Dear friends from Germany and Switzerland – it was so good to welcome you and to introduce you to bears, who join us in thanking you so very much indeed for the lives they have now. 

Come back soon. xxx

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