Richard and Suzie ..... what can I say?

They were so utterly lovely to host in Chengdu — Richard Symonds, and Suzie Marsh and her husband Doug, who had flown over from the UK to meet the bears and gather as many pictures of our gorgeous ambassadors as possible.

Both of them are profoundly talented and famous, with Richard painting the most beautiful wildlife pictures, and Suzie sculpting superbly lifelike wild and domestic species.

These two gloriously creative artists truly connect with animals in a talent rarely witnessed — and, of course, they and Doug all fell completely in love with the bears. Here's a pic of us on the roof of House 10 admiring "broken bear" Oliver (in the background) who had previously been caged for 30 years and again made us all cry:

And here are Richard and Suzie with Lucky and me in the Education Room. We're showing off all the lovely letters of support sent from children in Congleton UK:

Over the years, the generosity of these two artists towards the bears has been limitless, but they have always relied on photos and film, without actually meeting the animals they’ve been helping for so long.

And at last, here they were, walking into a world of emotional turmoil as they witnessed animals whose lives have been completely turned around. Many tears and smiles were shared as they joined our vet team in the surgery for two days of health-checks, witnessed the horrors of the catheters, the metal jackets and crush cages — and breathlessly introduced themselves to bears previously held captive for years.

The bears, now enjoying the warm summer days, took it all in their stride. Curious and confident, they walked calmly over to the fence-line and gently sniffed through the fencing, happily taking in the sights and smells of their new friends. Cameras clicked, video was taken and the week flew by before we all said sad and fond farewells.

Suzie and Richard will now be many months turning their passion and talent into something more exciting than I can ever describe, and are currently discussing major events for 2012 with Gill, Nicky and team from our UK office — in a tribute to China and Vietnam’s brave and majestic bears.

We so loved seeing you — Richard, Suzie and Doug — thank you for your love and help, and please come back again soon.

Here are four of Suzie’s amazing works — Boxing Hares, Butch ‘n’ Cassidy, and two of our rescued moon bears, Dilly and Ginny. For more of Suzie’s sculptures, please go to:

I’ll leave you with some of Richard’s stunning portraits of animals.

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