Christmas time for bears - Chengdu

This year we had an extra special guest on site in Chengdu – none other than our beautiful UK Ambassador, Lesley Nicol who plays the warm and no-nonsense cook Mrs Patmore in Downton Abbey. Lesley had brought a very special treat for every single rescued bear – traditional, fruit-filled mince pies!

pies Her first stop was our bear kitchen where she organised the pies for each house with help from the kitchen crew of Deng feiying(L) and Wen fengjun…

kitchen …and chopped a mountain of fruit and veg for the bears' breakfast.

choppingThen it was time to head on out…

out … and load up her beautifully decorated "sleigh" (thanks to Bear Manager Ryan and his artistic design) to deliver the goods to the enclosures and surprise the bears.

bikeAs she and I donned our Santa Clause hats and helped our wonderful team lay the mince pies out in the enclosures, together with gifts of dried fruit, nuts and smears of peanut butter wrapped in boxes and brightly coloured paper, the bears could be seen peering out of their dens in bright eyed anticipation.

bike 2  gifts 

With the enclosures at Houses 2 and 3 now looking like a festive winter wonderland, we made our way upstairs on to the platform, and prepared for the fun as the bears came out. The bell sounded, the doors opened, and the bears scuttled out as fast as their legs could carry them.

At this point we could see that while we'd made every attempt to lay out the pies a distance apart, there would be some greedy bears who would get more than their fair share! And one such bear was Delaney! Our beautiful "Wuss" of a bear with his "W" shaped crescent and the longest legs of the bear world, Delaney (otherwise known as Aussie) quickly switched on his "mince pie radar" and eagerly got to work hoovering up as many pies as he could find.

a1  a2  a3 

Passing the carrots, whole cabbage and apples- his nose was working overtime and, seemingly swallowing them whole, he scoffed at least six pies in the space of a few seconds.

a4  a5 

a6Delaney was later seen lying at the top of the platform, smug smile on his face and huge belly up in the air, as if proudly confirming "who ate all the pies".

Two houses down, eleven to go, and Mrs Patmore still had a lot of work to do before she could retire for a nice cup of tea.  The morning went by in a flash and our gorgeous "old duffer" bears in the special care area were treated to their gifts and mince pies in the afternoon with help from and thanks to their main carers, Rocky and Ryan.

r and rIt has to be said, that when the doors of their dens open, they're hardly the most spritely of bears, and today was no exception. Out they creaked, noses twitching, old legs carrying them to their trail of food, and shuffling ever closer to their Christmas surprise.

Blue, with his googly eyes, seemed to take a year exploring every inch of the ground, before finally spying his bright red parcel, that had a dollop of honey on for luck. Opening it in slow motion, he snuffled his nose into the contents before gleefully sucking up his treats.

blue 1The best part of all, however, was waiting on the other side of the fence - and after an agonising few minutes, he finally saw Lesley patiently holding out a delicious mince pie all for him, and made a beeline for his prize. He couldn't have been softer if he tried, and Lesley's face was a picture as he pursed his lips, closed his eyes, and took the pie gently from her fingers.

blue 2Over in the Bamboo House, Barri (or Bazza as Lesley had named him before) launched himself onto his present, and destroyed it in minutes, leaving the remnants of the wrapping paper lying around on the grass, like a kid who didn't really care that he'd littered his garden.

barrieThe next morning Lesley was in the hospital bright and early, and preparing for Xuan Xuan's health check. A routine examination, that would see this beautiful bear on the surgery table for a couple of hours - with Lesley holding her paw and sending her healthy vibes, as she slept through an ultrasound, a dental, x-ray, and examination of her heart.

hc 1This has been Lesley's fourth visit on site – and, as always, she lifted the whole centre with her big heart and her words of love and encouragement for the entire team. The atmosphere in the surgery was warm and wonderful, broken by smiles and quiet laughter as Lesley sniffed this sleeping bear's paws (a wonderful earthy smell), helped to trim her nails, and gave hugs to our fabulous vet team as they gave Xuan Xuan a clean bill of health.

hc 2That night we were all in for a special surprise with the arrival of an extra special guest. The buzz around the sanctuary was alive, as we all looked forward to a tea honour of Tuffy!

cakeTuffy's first weeks of life had seen suffering that was beyond anyone's imagination, after he had been punished by his previous owner for the crime of chewing a mobile phone. With boiling water poured over his little body, and then thrown out of the fourth floor window onto the cement ground below, Tuffy's end seemed certain, until kind hearted Yang Yingying found him almost lifeless on the floor.

tuffy 1Once again, the magic of our vet team ensured a Christmas miracle, and with weeks of patient, tender loving care, Tuffy was on the mend. Today, as he showed off tufts of new fur, and resplendent in yet another designer knitted hoodie (a beautiful sky blue), Tuffy was guest of honour at his own tea party, complete with Tuffy cake! Lesley of course fell immediately in love with this heroic little dog, and posed for pictures and TV cameras for stories that would go out across China that night.

tuffy 2On the final day, before saying a fond farewell to Lesley we had just one last task - a group video of all staff on site, with our beloved Ambassador singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" to the world.

My endless thanks to Lesley for bringing nothing but love and good cheer to our bears, dogs, cats and staff on site, and to you our supporters and friends for keeping us keeping on as these years go by. With so many successes across China and Vietnam for our three spearhead programmes – Ending Bear Bile Farming, Cat and Dog Welfare, and Captive Animal Welfare – we thank you, most sincerely, for your faith and support as the animals we champion enjoy a new dawn of respect.

With our love and gratitude to each and every one of you during this festive season, and wishing you so much health, happiness and peace throughout 2016.

See you in the New Year, with bear hugs and love from us all, Jillx