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Legendary “peacemaker” moon bear Jasper dies at Animals Asia’s sanctuary

29 April 2016

Jasper takes a bath

Moon bear Jasper spent 15 years in a Chinese bile farm crush cage. Rescued by Animals Asia he spent 15 more as the life and soul of the sanctuary before his death this week.

Vets took the decision to end Jasper’s suffering after an aggressive liver tumour was highlighted by a scan. Recent increased monitoring of Jasper had been prompted when months earlier lesions were spotted on his liver close to his gall bladder. Carers had also noted Jasper’s loss of appetite.

Jasper at his most comfortable

Animals Asia Vet Emily Drayton said:

“Although Jasper had been at our sanctuary for many years, I have no doubt that the trauma and damage caused to his liver and gall bladder during his time on the bile farms had predisposed him to this type of cancer.” 

Animals Asia founder and CEO Jill Robinson recalled Jasper’s rescue - he was one of 63 bears that were delivered to Animals Asia’s sanctuary in Chengdu at the same time. The bears that arrived that day were in a shocking state and Jasper’s condition was among the most shocking of all.

Jill first seeing Jasper in his coffin cage

Jill said:

“Jasper was held in a ‘crush cage’ - absolutely flattened to the bars, with a rusty metal catheter protruding from his gall bladder and abdomen. I can remember his cage, the crude confinement, his misery, vulnerability and pain - and his handsome face. And through all his suffering, when he pushed his paw out and patted my hand, he made me smile.

“Since then he kept making me smile. Jasper epitomised both the stoic nature and forgiveness of his species, time and time again. Once he'd had surgery to remove his damaged gall bladder and spent a few weeks resting up and gorging himself on food and treats never before enjoyed, there was no going back. Jasper loved it here, and we loved Jasper.

Jasper enjoying freedom

“He created a family. A family in a rescue centre of bears who adored playing with him, a family of staff who could pick him out a mile away with his yellow eyebrows, and a family of people who loved him across the world. For me, bad days were put right, simply by going over to House 2 to visit him. There he'd be - either deep in the middle of a bear bundle in the grass with friends Banjo, Aussie and Frank, or waiting expectantly by the bars of his den, sitting in his teddy bear pose, knowing full well that about half a tub of peanut butter was coming his way.

“He lived for 15 years in a bile farm and 15 years in a sanctuary. But despite the awfulness of his early years - on balance he made his life worth living.”

Jasper on top of bear bundle

During his time at the sanctuary, Jasper was known for his ability as a peacemaker. He’d position himself between bears behaving aggressively and somehow remove the tension.

Animal expert Marc Bekoff co-authored Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears with Jill Robinson. Last night he paid tribute to Jasper.

He said:

“He was a most amazing bear being - after spending 15 years living in a crush cage as part of the horrific bear bile industry he was able to spend the rest of his life at the moon bear rescue centre outside of Chengdu, with the most amazing and dedicated people who work there. He loved being in front of the camera and was also a peacemaker. Just thinking about him makes me laugh. He will be missed.”

Watching over Jasper for the better half of his life was Nic Field, Animals Asia’s China Bear and Vet Team Director. She said:

“Every day these bears teach us about their endurance and spirit but they also teach us about ourselves. Jasper was no exception and looking around the team today his spirit shone through in everyone's tears and memories. Jasper was a friend to bears and people alike. He brought us all together. He was a wonderful ambassador for Animals Asia and as an individual highlighted the plight of his fellow species.

“His legacy is enormous. We will remember with love and laughter his escapades in the enclosure with his friends like Aussie, and give thanks to have been honoured with knowing him.”

Jasper lying on the grass in 2008

In memory:

Animals Asia founder and CEO Jill Robinson: 

“Throughout 15 unforgettable years, the story of Jasper and so many other bears here in China and Vietnam has garnered respect for this species, disgust for their past, and sorrow for their pain. Like so many before him, Jasper's life has ended as a direct result of the trauma he suffered on a bear bile farm - with another life lost to an industry of shame.

“The graveyard was full this afternoon, every department paying tribute to this iconic, fun-loving bear. And tributes and tears flowed as we remembered a friend who indelibly left his mark and made us smile.”

Jasper and Beau

Animals Asia China Bear and Vet Team Director Nic Field: 

“Jasper symbolised everything about what we do and why we do it. His story is not just about the darkness of the bear farming industry – it’s also about the light and hope for what can be achieved with a future free from cruelty.

Animals Asia Vet Emily Drayton:

“Over the years Jasper gave us so much joy. He made us laugh, entertained us and gave us hope that all bears, even the most broken ones, could be rehabilitated. We may have given Jasper a sanctuary, but he gave us so much more.”

Jasper on his favourite hammock

Animal expert, and co-author of Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears, Marc Bekoff: 

“Please light a candle for Jasper and all of the moon bears who remain in the bear bile industry, and those who have been most fortunate to have been rescued.”

Over 10,000 bears remain in bile farms in China facing painful daily bile extractions. Animals Asia has rescued almost 600 bears from the bile industry in China and Vietnam and continues to care for almost 400.

Further reading:

The Bear in the Picture: Jasper

Celebrating Sir Jasper

Jasper’s Story: One Moon Bear’s Role as Ambassador for Those Cruelly Farmed for Their Bile

Jasper at the China Sanctuary