Education is key to bears' future

We recently had a visit at our Chengdu sanctuary from lovely Swiss supporter Charles Isaac and two friends ?Christina Bernasconi and Matt Schmidt. On his return home, Charles sent a note to sanctuary staff, in which he brings up an important point which I'd like to share with you here. Charles (on the left) also sent these fab photos of his visit.

I'll now hand over to Charles:

We recently had the opportunity to visit the Animals Asia bear sanctuary in Chengdu, kindly co-ordinated by Claire in HK. It was a really damp, cold January day but this didn’t dent the enthusiasm of the staff we met on site. The professionalism, enthusiasm and size of the set-up couldn’t be diminished by the freezing fog.

The visitor centre exhibition is sombre and depressing to start but it’s needed to have this shock value to put the cruelty and unnecessary nature of bile extraction in its place (there are herbal and synthetic alternatives which do not carry the same risks as farmed bear bile). The short exhibition ends on an upbeat note of hope with photos of the first arrivals at the sanctuary.

The highlight was undoubtedly just standing and watching the moon bears being bears, foraging for food in the specially designed trees trunks and toys, and playing and interacting with each other. Other moments that come back on reflection include the poignant bear cemetery, the big brown bear looking grumpy as if he had cold feet too!, and the huge pile of those tiny cages which some bears had spent decades rotting in, it could have been a modern work of art.

It took being there for the Animal Asia message that the solution lies in education, not rescue to really hit home. Seeing the scale of the operation in Chengdu and then thinking about the relatively (to the 10,000 or so still being tortured in bear farms) few number that are housed there makes it patently clear that the solution does not lie in rescue but in changing habits that lead to the death of the unnecessary practice of bear farming and bile extraction.

And in Vietnam, we recently had a visit from lovely Swiss supporter Jeannette Jaussi, pictured here with Tuan. Jeannette also wrote about her trip and sent some great pics of the bears.

My five weeks in Vietnam saw a special highlight on Jan. 16th, when I was able to visit the moon bear rescue centre of Animals Asia, in the Tam Dao national park some 70 km north of Hanoi.

As I am travelling through the country from south to north, I can only imagine the difficulties of the last transport of 14 rescued bears, which also had to make this trip. On several occasions the roads are quite bad and you also have to cross some minor passes.

Finally, at 7 am on Jan 16th, I arrived at the main office of Animals Asia in Hanoi, and Tuan, the director of Animals Asia in Vietnam, gave me a ride to the centre. It is situated in a beautiful valley just inside the national park. Bear manager Annemarie showed me around. I saw happy bears foraging eagerly for their breakfast, followed by some playful actions, body care and swimming in the pools. I was delighted to see how nice this place is for the bears.

I also visited the new bearhouse and I can assure you, that the 3.000 Swiss francs which we were able to hand over in the name of all those generous donors, are indeed very well invested here. Already 99 bears are living in this centre and new space is urgently needed.

In the afternoon I am allowed to see the 14 bears, which were rescued in southern Vietnam and still are in quarantine. Seeing them, I really feel sick at heart about them, even if they are now reasonably well off. All of them still seem to be very sad and they all need medical treatment. But hopefully, soon they also will be able to play in the sunshine and be happy and free again.

I thank all of you, who support this wonderful project.

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