The Bear in the Picture: Jasper

21 November 2014

Moon bear Jasper in a crush cage

This picture was taken in 2000 at Animals Asia's Chengdu sanctuary. Moon bear Jasper had just been transported from a Chinese bear bile farm where he was kept flat on his back in a crush cage. By the time Jasper reached Animals Asia founder and CEO Jill Robinson, he had been caged for 15 years.

That day, Jasper along with 63 other bears, was finally rescued. They travelled several miles from farms in Dujiangyang back to the sanctuary where the long process of healing their physical and psychological wounds would begin.

When Jasper arrived in Chengdu, he was dramatically underweight and missing a great deal of fur from years of rubbing against his cage. His teeth were badly worn down from bar biting and he had a metal catheter implanted in his abdomen to extract his bile. Underneath the cage a pool of bile grew as it dripped from his wound. In order to free him, Animals Asia had to cut the 6-foot-tall bear from the tiny cage that held him. Because of his 15 year incarceration, his muscles were weak and wasting away.

Animals Asia's sanctuary staff weren't convinced that he would ever regain his spirit.

To Jasper, humans meant pain and cruelty.

Jasper - before and after being rescued

Jasper had his gall bladder removed and his poor rotten teeth fixed. While he recovered he was fed a proper diet for the first time in his life. His strength slowly returned and he put on weight.

In time he was able to make his first, faltering steps out into a semi-natural enclosure with other bears.

A second, happy life began.

Over the years, foraging and playing on the grass of his enclosure in the sunshine Jasper has learned to trust those who care for him and is finally enjoying the life which was taken from him.

Despite his traumatic life Jasper forged a reputation as a "peacemaker" bear. A bear that would intervene as other bears growled their differences.

Jasper in Chengdu bear rescue centre (CBRC)

Animals Asia founder Jill Robinson said:

"I remember this journey so vividly and that unforgettable picture of Jasper crushed helplessly in his cage has been seen across the world since then. Discovering him in those conditions was beyond shocking. He was completely prone... exposed, vulnerable and unable to move. You couldn't call that existence a life.

"It was never certain that Jasper would recover from his ordeal but his determination was clear when he arrived and his incredible rehabilitation has surprised us all. It's hard to believe that the active, happy bear we see in our sanctuary today, is the same animal that was trapped in a metal cage for so many years."

Jasper's incredible story has gone on to inspire supporters all over the world through the illustrated children' book Jasper's Story.