SIGN & SHARE: Act now to end cruel selfie duty for innocent sun bear family

26 October 2017

Instead of bonding with each other as mother and child, sun bear Ajib and her cub Marsha are forced to pose for selfies with Western tourists – YOU can help end it.

Sun bear Ajib gave birth to her cub, Marsha, seven months ago but since then neither have enjoyed a moment’s peace at the True Bali Experience elephant camp where they must earn their keep posing in tourists’ selfies.

For Ajib, there is no nurturing her offspring or teaching her how to be a bear. For Marsha – so young and vulnerable – there seems no escaping the unnatural life of servitude into which she has been born.

Footage taken in June by Animals Asia’s Indonesian partner Scorpion Foundation shows tiny cub Marsha vainly trying to escape staff who want to clean her in readiness for the hordes of camera-toting tourists to come.

Like any infant, the scampering cub is full of energy and exuberance, clearly longing to roam around freely, explore and play.

In stark contrast, her 12-year-old mother Ajib is seen virtually lifeless in the arms of a Western tourist who wants a picture with the bear.

Both animals must be ready to “perform” all day every day whenever the visiting tourists – many from Australia and the US – arrive.

A third bear is also held at the facility although kept separate from both the tourists and Marsha and Ajib.

Animals Asia’s Animal Welfare Director Dave Neale said:

“What is being done to Ajib and her cub Marsha is utterly tragic. Ironically, Ajib was actually rescued from poachers, but her rescuers are abusing their position by using her and her family to make money.”

Now Animals Asia is calling on the True Bali Experience elephant camp to end the interaction with tourist immediately and accept Animals Asia’s assistance – being offered for free – to improve the welfare of all three bears at their facility.

Animals Asia initially offered animal management advice to the True Bali Experience elephant camp in June this year to help them improve the welfare and standard of living for Marsha, Ajib and a third male bear at the facility.

However, when Animals Asia insisted that interactions with tourists cease, the facility broke off communications.

Tricking tourists into cruelty

The True Bali Experience complex is a sprawling area comprising a host of tourism facilities on the Indonesian island of Bali.

The tourists which visit the facilities – which include riding elephants and taking selfies with Ajib and Marsha as well as white water rafting – come from all over the world, though many are from nearby Australia.

Dave said:

“The tourists are being fooled. When they visit, they see two placid animals in a large grassy enclosure and everything seems very nice. They don’t see the tiny concrete cell where Marsha and Ajib spend most of their time, they don’t see Marsha’s lost childhood or the tell-tale signs of stress such as chronic paw sucking.

“The tourists are told that everything is ok, but this is far from the truth. What will happen when Marsha and Ajib can no longer be safely handled? What has been done to make adult Ajib so docile? Are they receiving veterinary care? Are they getting enough exercise and mental stimulation? Is their diet suitable? Are they able to express natural behaviours?

“The answer to most of these questions is absolutely not because the bears’ welfare is not the primary concern. This facility is being run for profit and the bears are being exploited.”

As of October 2017 the TripAdvisor listing for the Bali Elephant Camp was around 75 percent positive, implying that most tourists have no idea they are funding animal cruelty.

At present, the facility holds three sun bears and at all times one or two of the bears will be locked in the small concrete cell.

Enclosure access is rotated so that Ajib and Marsha are kept separate from the suspected male bear, presumably to avoid aggression.

With the nearest sun bear sanctuary in Indonesia around 1,000km away on a totally separate island, it is highly doubtful that a transfer of the three bears would be feasible even if the True Bali Experience elephant camp agreed.

However, Animals Asia believes that should the tourist interactions end and management advice be taken on board, the welfare of all the bears could be vastly improved.

Ajib and Marsha desperately need your help – sign the petition today calling on the True Bali Experience elephant camp to end the cruel selfie duty and implement welfare improvements.