Ricky Gervais adopts Peace by Piece bear

18 July 2014

Comedian Ricky Gervais has named a farmed moon bear in China after his comedy-drama, Derek.

Ricky is very well known and respected as a champion of animal welfare and has long supported Animals Asia in their campaign to end the barbaric practice of farming endangered Asiatic black bears (otherwise known as moon bears because of the crescent of lemon-coloured fur across their chests) for their bile in farms across China and Vietnam. Bear bile is used as an ingredient in traditional Asian medicines treating liver and ophthalmic conditions, despite the existence of over 50 herbal and synthetic alternatives.

Animals Asia has recently embarked on a brand new initiative to turn a state bear farm in Nanning, China into its third bear sanctuary.  This is as the result of an historic agreement between the charity and the bear farm operator who has publicly stated that bear farming is cruel and is a failing industry in China.

Instead of selling his bears on to another bile farm, he was determined to find a humane future for them and contacted Animals Asia.  It is hoped that this extraordinary undertaking, which will take two years to complete, will show the Chinese government and other farmers wishing to get out of the business, increasingly seen as a stain on China’s reputation, that a win-win solution is possible, benefitting both bears and farmers.

There are currently 130 bears still languishing in small cages and tiny concrete dens on the farm in Nanning, many of whom are sick as a result of the bile extraction methods, and all of whom were denied anything but the basics to keep them alive. They were deprived of free access to water despite the sweltering heat of the region, were fed on a meagre corn gruel and spent their days trapped in solitary confinement, out of their minds with boredom and fear.

This has all changed, little by little, with the advent of Animals Asia’s vet and bear management teams and the retraining of farm workers into bear managers. Bears are now experiencing a rich diet of fruit, dog food and vegetables and have free access to water and some have had basic surgeries to relieve pain caused by rotten teeth and ingrowing claws on paws that have never stood on grass. It is hoped that many of the sickest bears will eventually be transported back to Animals Asia’s main sanctuary in Chengdu, China where there is a full veterinary hospital where vital abdominal surgery can be carried out.

One such bear is Derek, an unconventionally gorgeous young male bear, thought to be approximately 10 years old. Parts of his forehead are raw from continually rubbing the bars; behaviour typical of caged bears. He has a long, lolloping tongue as a result of suspected nerve damage at the back of his mouth and an opaqueness over his right eye, thought to be a cataract. Like many rescued bears he has few teeth, most of which are rotten and in need of extraction. His front paws have been painfully declawed to protect the farmers who extracted bile. But none of these conditions are life threatening for Derek and he will quickly learn to adapt to all of them.  Knowing of Ricky’s support, and sure in the knowledge that he wished to name one of the Nanning bears Derek, the Animals Asia team felt sure that this bear was undoubtedly the character to fill the name. His beautiful mess of features mask a tender and curious bear within; a bear who will attract love and attention wherever he roams.

Animals Asia’s founder and CEO, Jill Robinson MBE, recently presented Ricky with a picture of Derek and a short film of the charity’s UK Ambassador Lesley Nicol (Downton Abbey’s Mrs Patmore) addressing Derek and telling him of his celebrity sponsor during her recent visit to Nanning.  Ricky was visibly moved saying:

“Derek is a beautiful but very damaged bear. After such a sad and traumatic existence on a bear farm I am thrilled to have adopted him as one of 130 bears currently being rescued by Animals Asia in China and long to see him enjoying his new life in the sun! I so admire this historic initiative to turn a bear farm into a sanctuary and applaud the efforts of everyone involved.”

Derek is a lucky bear. With the support of Ricky Gervais, his plight and that of the 129 other bears, will become well known and, with public funding, his day in the sun, enjoying the life and privileges of a semi-wild moon bear, will arrive in the next two years. He will swap caged isolation, meagre diet and boring days for the freedom to climb, swim and play with his fellow bears in Animals Asia’s third sanctuary, an example for all other farmers who still keep over 10,000 bears in captivity.

To find out more about Animals Asia’s Peace by Piece initiative, please visit www.peacebypiece.animalsasia.org