Swapping bears she loves for bears that need her more

13 May 2014

Feeding the bears (4)

For Heidi Quine it’s a once-in-a-lifetime job – heading up the Nanning Bear Rescue Centre bear team.

In her new role as Senior Bear Manager she will oversee the daily care of the bears as well as retraining former farm workers as part of Peace by Piece, Animals Asia’s landmark project to turn a bear bile farm into a sanctuary.

The job is unique. Never before has a bear bile farm been converted into a bear sanctuary. Never before has a bear manager had to oversee the care of bears while the very facility around them is being converted. The conversion will take two years so, in the meantime, Heidi and her team will have to make the bears as comfortable as possible in spite of the facility’s current limitations.

Despite the enormity of the task - Heidi is feeling up to it:

“I will be relocating to Nanning for this. Although the expertise of the Bear and Vet Team in Chengdu will never be more than a phone call away, I expect the next few years will be quite challenging and come with more than a few sleepless nights. But I am ready for the challenge, because I know together we can do this.”

Already Heidi has a clear idea of what changes can be implemented while structural work remains on-going.

“Everything from the diet offered to the bears, to cleaning routines will need to be re-established to meet the exacting standards of Animals Asia, and to promote the best possible welfare for the bears. Nanning Bear Rescue Centre will set an example for bear bile farms right across China – a blueprint for a way out of the failing bear bile industry – so we have to get it right.”

Feeding the bears (1)

One of the most important aspects of the change will be helping to train the ex-farm workers, who have no experience of animal welfare, into a first-class bear team.

“Working with the bear team onsite is something I can’t wait to do. Developing staff capacity is something I have always been passionate about and I am incredibly excited about working with the Nanning bear care team to demonstrate there is a way out of bear bile farming, a way which sees empowered people – and happy, healthy, free bears.”

Undoubtedly there will be many new friends to be made in Heidi’s new role, but she also has much to leave behind.

“I’ve been at CBRC since November 2011, almost exactly two and a half years now. I can honestly say in all my professional life I have never worked in such a close-knit team. It’s going to be very sad to move away from some of the amazing people and animals who have become my second family.

“I don’t think I have quite processed having to say goodbye to the bears I have grown to love. I can always email or call people, but the bears are a little harder to keep in touch with. I am used to being able to look out my bedroom window at Dick Bear, Weston Super Bear, Dong Fang Hai Wai, and Quantock wrestling in the grass – I am going to miss those boys.”

“As is the case with anyone who relocates somewhere new, I will have to re-establish my whole life in Nanning. But when I think about all those bears who until now have known only suffering and misery and are about to experience freedom for the first time in their lives, I can not think of a better reason to pack my bags and move.”

Nanning May 2014 (159)