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A world of visitors at our sanctuary


(Apologies to all our visitors below that this is late being posted owing to the crisis in Vietnam.)

What a month September was, with an endless stream of visitors flying in to China from all over the world and giving us the opportunity of thanking them all for their years of kindness and support to the bears.

First to arrive were our friends from Luxembourg who have raised enough funding to help us build no less than three bear houses, and rescue 25 bears - and were here on their second visit to see how things have progressed since September 2009.

Led by Denise Kirchen (pictured above in the middle), the group - Anne, Beatrice, Jean-Marie, Maggy, Christiane, and tour guide Yong Zhang - were wonderful to host on site, as we introduced them again to their old bear friends, such as Heather, Ashley, Tina, Francy, Happy, Metty, Lucky 2, Leon and, of course, beautiful Tibetan brown bear, Poupouce.

Bringing the national flag all the way from Luxembourg, Denise carefully attached it to the "Brown House" where Poupouce and her brother Benji live, and declared it "open" on behalf of the Luxembourg team.

Denise and the Luxembourg team were also invited to "assist" in our surgery, as they helped during a routine health check on Tinsley - stroking fur, clipping claws, and working with vet Jo, and vet nurses, Wendy, Karli and Vicki in making sure that Tinsley was happy and healthy, and wouldn't need to be checked again for at least another two years.

That afternoon, we were joined by Pamela Barton MBE, who is the previous President of the SPCA (HK) and has been a long-standing friend of the bears and I for nearly 30 years. Pamela is a remarkable woman who has crammed several lifetimes in to one, and who kept everyone enthralled and very amused with her stories starting from when she maintained jeeps during the second world war!

The day went by quickly as we enjoyed seeing bears playing together in the summer sunshine, or lolling about in their pools, before we quietly walked through the graveyard and cages of shame area, to reflect upon the tragedy of bear farming in all its shameful truth.

That night we had our 14th anniversary party on site where we were able to thank Denise and team, and Pamela, properly for all their generosity over the years - saying a big "xie xie ni" to them all. The party was also great fun considering that it was Pamela's birthday and everyone got to eat cake!

Just the next day, we were host to more wonderful supporters, this time from the UK - Oliver and Gitte, Barbara (Babs), Sarah, Daphne, Jenny, Neal and Melissa - again long-standing and generous supporters who have travelled a long road with Animals Asia since our campaign began.

In the morning we had a birthday surprise for Pamela who was able to meet one of her sponsored bears, Beau, very close up, as she was due for a health check and was there on the table when we walked in to the surgery to meet the vet and bear team. Oliver and Gitte were our official vet nurses for the morning, but were also joined by the others in a happy few hours where Beau passed her health check with flying colours.

That afternoon, standing on the roof of House 10, it wasn't very long before dear old Oliver shuffled out in to his enclosure and began slowly and stiffly foraging for his food. This is his favourite part of the day and we could almost hear him "humming" as he pottered around, searching out his "smorgasbord" of good things to eat. Of course I hardly dared look at anyone, as I knew that there would be tears - of both sadness and joy for a bear that had spent 30 years in a cage, but was loving his new life today.

That night we had dinner on top of House 5 and 6 and were joined by our vet and bear team as everyone got to know each other and shared stories about the bears. Creeping down in to the dens at 7pm we were able to enjoy the bears snoozing in their hanging basket beds and smiled at knowing that they would now be dreaming (and sometimes snoring) until 8am the next morning. Not a bad night's sleep in anyone's books.

The next day it was time for our UK team to see something completely different in the form of Dr Dog. Over we went to a home for the elderly in Chengdu, to meet the residents and their special therapists who were visiting them for the morning to offer them comfort of the canine kind. The atmosphere was indescribable with the elderly residents crowding around the dogs and offering them treats and hugs in equal measures. Our Dr Dog volunteers kept everything marvellously in control as of course did Suki and team who head up the programme in Chengdu.

Last but not least that week we welcomed bear Bill's sponsors on site - Steve and Sue Dullard from Hong Kong, plus their niece Tegan. Steve, Sue and I have known each other for years - and I'll never forget their wedding day many years ago when, instead of wedding presents, they asked friends to donate to Animals Asia. They are beyond generous, a lot of fun too, and surprising for them (grin) almost speechless when Bill came right up the fenceline - several times - to say a cheery hello.

With grateful thanks to Richard Zhou especially for being the point person in coordinating our visitors on site - but special thanks too to everyone for giving our international supporters and friends another unforgettable few days in Bearland.


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