Chu Chu grinned as he always did – that silly beaming smile of his that stretches from ear to ear – and the years rolled back. It was Sunday, 18th October and my first visit in many years to Panyu, southern China, but the bears hadn’t changed one jot.
While some friends and supporters have been visiting us in China and Vietnam, others have been helping us from home and putting their hearts and souls into local fundraisers for our Honey Money Days.
A busy and exciting few weeks in Chengdu with visitors from afar arriving back to back on site. Just last month we welcomed long-standing supporters Denise Kirchen and friends from Luxembourg who have, over the years, adopted no less than 25 bears and sponsored a whole bear house!
This afternoon, as I peel Franzi her last grape, I think back to when I fell in love with her for the first time. It was on the 6th December 2002 when she arrived from the bear farm – and quickly became the bear described as both winning and breaking our hearts.
What a fabulous time we had with our friends from Sweden's Animal Protection Network – Monica, Milla and Ulrika – who bounced off the plane in Hong Kong and straight into a Dr Dog visit organised by Marnie and team at Shatin Hospital.
Our dear friends at Philippine Animals Welfare Society (PAWS) are battling to help families and animals affected by the devastating typhoon and flooding in Manila. This is despite the fact that key members of PAWS were themselves trapped for two days with their rescued animals.
The organisers of the Second China International Animal and Nature Film Festival in Ya’an, Sichuan province, invited our China team to join the event, which recognises local and international filmmakers.
What a night it was. Steve and Sue – our fantastic Hong Kong supporters (and adopters of one of our bears rescued in February, now called Bill) – had generously offered to support our Honey Money Days campaign by sponsoring a night of music and fun in China.
The bear lies helpless on the ground. For the fourth time this month, she’s been drugged with ketamine – an illegal substance in Vietnam used by the farmers to render the bears unconscious and take their bile.
Clucking quietly in the early morning, Assisi was clearly suspicious that “something” was going on. A lifetime of nasty surprises, pain and confinement on the bear farm before he arrived with us in February, ensured that he would still be somewhat cautious with all the new experiences at the sanctuary.
Jill heads Animals Asia’s team of over 300 enthusiastic staff. She divides her time between mainland China, Vietnam and Hong Kong, and travels frequently…READ MORE
Jill Robinson MBE
Jill heads Animals Asia’s team of over 300 enthusiastic staff. She divides her time between mainland China, Vietnam and Hong Kong, and travels frequently around the world to give presentations at conferences and speak at fundraising events.
A hands-on leader, Jill is involved in all major decision-making. She works with the vet and bear teams during rescues and health checks and advises closely on construction projects. She visits dog and cat markets and zoos and safari parks throughout China to document the abuse of animals and over the years has made countless visits to hospitals and homes for the elderly with her own and Animals Asia’s animal-therapy dogs.
She writes her own blog, her own speeches and presentations, is a regular contributor to newspapers and magazines and a frequent guest on radio and TV shows. She has also co-written a children’s book about moon bears and co-written a number of scientific papers with Animals Asia’s vet teams.
Born in the UK, Jill arrived in Hong Kong in 1985 and spent 12 years working in Asia as a consultant for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Repeatedly faced with scenes of widespread animal cruelty, she decided to introduce the concept of “animal welfare through people welfare” and founded Dr Dog in Hong Kong in 1991 – the first animal-therapy programme in Asia.
Jill founded Animals Asia in 1998 – five years after an encounter with a caged bear on a farm in southern China changed her life forever. Learning that bear bile could be replaced by herbs, she vowed to put an end to bear bile farming. Since then, Animals Asia has rescued over 530 bears in China and Vietnam.
In 2010, both Animals Asia’s China and Vietnam rescue centres were awarded the Carole Noon Award for Sanctuary Excellence and in 2014 they were accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries – the only sanctuaries in China and Vietnam to have received this honour.
Jill is a Council Member of the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies (WFCMS) Herbal Committee and her outstanding contribution to animal welfare has been recognised with a number of awards. In 1995, she won the “Reader’s Digest” Hero for Today award. In 1998, she was made an MBE by Queen Elizabeth of England. In 2008, she was named “Outstanding Earth Champion” in Hong Kong and was appointed World Animal Day Ambassador for Asia. In 2010, she was one of 12 recognised foreigners given the “You Bring Charm to China” award.
Jill received an honorary doctorate in veterinary science from the University of Zurich, Switzerland in 2012, and an honorary law degree from the University of Nottingham Ningbo China in 2014.
She shares her home in Hong Kong with her family of rescued dogs, cats and a tortoise.