20 June 2016, 12:53PM
The ripple went around the sanctuary like wildfire – our UK Ambassador, Peter Egan was back. Three years previously, Peter had stayed on site with our team and spoke of his life-changing experience at the hands of our bears. They had worked their magic – as they always, always do – and another person was now deeply captivated by their forgiveness and charm.
Having said that, Peter is not short of a little charm himself, and smiles were never far away as he once again met the bears and the teams looking after them during the course of a rather chaotic four days. With Peter was Andrew Telling, an award-winning documentary producer, and Natalie Coles, who was heading up the logistics of the film they are producing, narrated by Peter and scheduled for release later this year.
As Narrator, Peter had some searching questions about the work of Animals Asia – covering not only the bears, but also our other programmes: Captive Animal Welfare and Cat and Dog Welfare. Often the responses to Peter's enquiries emphasised the depth of tragedy so many animals face, and Peter was forced to live their suffering through words that described their fate. Always the professional, he managed to keep his emotions in check and ensured that the interviews conveyed both the stark reality of welfare in Asia, and the strong emphasis of hope.
Interviews in the surgery with our veterinary team saw Peter interviewing Vet Eddie and Vet Nurse Wendy, observing Douglas – a now-gently-sleeping bear – on the surgery table, looking at ultrasound images of his abdomen and heart, and helping to trim his long strong claws.
Peter, Douglas Bear and Vet Eddie
Outside in House 7 Peter's namesake, Peter Bear, contentedly foraged for fruit, and even happily entered a recovery cage for some training, as his proud "family member" looked on.
With Jasper, one of our iconic bears, laid to rest just days before, the filming in the graveyard took on a sadly sombre tone, and Peter took the opportunity of filming a short piece there amongst Jasper and so many bears we have loved and lost. Hardly able to keep himself in check, Peter spoke movingly of bear bile farming and the work of Animals Asia to end it.
That evening, to help lift the sanctuary from the sadness of losing another four-legged family member, Peter very generously paid for a party for all staff. His kindness saw the tables groaning with wonderful Chinese vegan food and, with a lucky draw of T-shirts donated by the wonderful Miomojo company in Italy, we saw two or three hours of smiles and good cheer.
Peter's last day soon arrived and with more tears, it was time to say goodbye Mr Ambassador, a huge and heartfelt thank you and come back soon.
Natalie, Andrew, Jill, Peter and Bear and Vet Team Director, Nic.
Andrew and Natalie remained filming little extras not covered in the previous four days – that saw poor Andrew's legs bitten ragged by our relentless sand flies and mosquitos on site. Not even the strongest repellent prevented them from considering Andrew's legs as the perfect buffet and one could only hope that on return to the UK his scars would soon heal.
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