When our bears die...

We all know the saying that dying is a fact of life. Over these past 26 years despite steeling ourselves for the reality of death, we've stood with broken hearts at the graves of too many bears who never should have died so soon. Grieving for yet another ursine friend, we know too well that bear farming is an industry that will claim 100% of our rescued bears, sooner or later, as they ultimately lose their lives to its cruel and pervasive presence.

To see our professional teams, my friends, with heads bowed in silent sadness, and knowing what is on their mind, is the sight I often struggle with the most. It's human nature. To question yourself, to challenge yourself; "Did I do anything wrong. Could we have done something more?".

Every time we carry out a rescue – the shocking condition of the bears in cages defies reason and belief. We look at them with minds reeling. And, if not to each other, we say to ourselves; "How did you live like this? How did you survive for so long?" Fleetingly allowing ourselves a second or two of emotional pain, of gulping despair, before minds swiftly gather and we become the professionals the bears need us to be.

A solid group of qualified people with decades of experience. All knowing that nothing is more important than taking these bears out of the darkness of their cages and into the light of our sanctuaries. Taking stock, taking records, taking note of every physical and psychological sign, while telling each one they'll soon be home in a place of kindness, as we do for every single bear we rescue.

And as new lives begin at our sanctuaries, we know that we owe it to them all to heal them. to strengthen them, to help them... be bear.

Because this is the world of our vets, our nurses, our behaviourists and bear care teams – every single day. We may not be able to help them live forever, but we do help them to live good lives.

So please forgive us if we ask for several days to grieve before announcing the death of a bear. Emotions to be felt, post mortems to be done, stories told, pictures sourced, memories recalled and treasured... of a friend we've loved and lost. It’s during difficult times like these that everyone must summon the strength to go on. To remind ourselves of how far we’ve come, how many bears’ lives we’ve saved and improved, how many hearts and minds we’ve changed across Asia. How our work is ending bear bile farming in Vietnam by 2026, by showing that kindness is the cure.

We’ll continue doing all we can to reach every last bear still out there, right now, caged and waiting for their day in the sun. We'll continue in rescue, recovery, rehab and research as we have done for nearly 30 years and for nearly 700 bears. This is our job and this is our privilege, to mend broken minds and broken bodies – to help them be bear for the rest of their lives.

And we do this because of you, and we do this with you.

Because however long they have, their days are filled with hearts of happiness and freedom from pain. For the first time in their lives, they're breathing in fresh mountain air, they're basking under blue skies and sunshine, and their eyes are blinking curiously at other bears who will soon become their friends. For the first time, they've found trust and fun in living, and when their time has come, they'll die knowing that they are free.

So despite the days of kicking walls with frustration, of weeping on each other's shoulders when a bear has breathed their last – we celebrate them, the teams we love and a wonderful community of people across the world who join us in respect and in caring deeply for all animals and their survival.

People who know, like us, that when kindness cures, the ripples of kindness spread.

As bear farming nears its end in Vietnam, we thank our bears still living and those who died too soon. Because their courage and indomitable spirit have seen us stronger and kept our hopes alive, until no bear is left behind.

With love, with gratitude, from us all in our sanctuaries of peace in China and Vietnam.

Read more: Goodbye Lelly...