Thousands of animals including moon bear Jeanne have found sanctuary thanks to the compassion of Marchig Animal Welfare Trust

18 October 2021

It was a warm spring day in Nanning, China in May 2021. Animals Asia was in the middle of the biggest bear rescue operation ever undertaken anywhere in the world. We were moving 101 moon bears from an ex-bile farm in the province to our award-winning Chengdu bear sanctuary, the only bear sanctuary in China, 750 miles away.

Jeanne was one of the bears being prepared for the momentous journey that day. 

Jeanne was named after the founder of the Marchig Animal Welfare Trust, the late Madame Jeanne Marchig of Geneva who had a deep love and concern for nature and animals. Founded in 1989, its aims are to protect animals and promote and encourage practical work in preventing animal cruelty and suffering.

“Our guardian angels”

Jill Robinson, Animals Asia’s founder and CEO describes the phenomenal impact Marchig has had on Animals Asia’s work including the Nanning homecoming mission which, without the support of organisations like Marchig, would not have been possible:

“The Marchig Animal Welfare Trust has supported us for the last twenty years, and they have been instrumental to many of our successes, helping us overcome some of our hardest challenges including caring for and relocating over 100 bears from Nanning."

"Animals Asia owes Marchig an enormous debt of gratitude. Not just for rescuing the bears, but for rescuing us in times of hardship. There’s no way we’d be where we are today, for so many animals across Asia, without their commitment and incredible support."

“Throughout these two decades they have been faithful friends of the bears and to the organisation worldwide. It is not an exaggeration to say that they have been our guardian angels and I want to take this opportunity to thank them from the bottom of my heart for everything they have done and helped us achieve for so many animals."

Marchig presents Jill Robinson with award

In 2015, Marchig presented Jill with an award in the European parliament in honour of her work to end bear bile farming.

Speaking at the event, Jeanne Marchig said: “The Trustees received a large number of nominations for its annual Award from all over the world. With so many worthy candidates, it was very difficult to reach a decision. However, we are pleased to make the Award to Animals Asia in recognition of the contribution it has made and continues to make to animal welfare in China.”

Madame Marchig continued: “This remarkable organisation is working tirelessly in the front line of the fight to end suffering and cruelty to animals”.

Jeanne bear comes home

And with this amazing support from Marchig, after years living in a tiny cage at Nanning, Jeanne bear’s time to leave had finally come. She calmly, steadily and confidently walked into her transport cage which she’d been trained to do as if to say, “I’m ready, let’s go”.

Jill Robinson remembers her in those early days, “Jeanne was in a dreadful condition with damaged, rotten and painful teeth, and her claws were growing back in a deformed fashion after being declawed by the farmers. She was a calm, sweet and gentle bear and despite multiple other problems, including a mass that turned out to be benign, she tottered on contentedly perhaps knowing that better days were coming.”

Home at last

Jeanne was integrated with six other bears after she had completed her mandatory 30-day quarantine period. The rescue and bear care team watched with their breaths held as they waited to see how the bears would get on.

In Nanning, we tried to integrate Jeanne and (the late) Bunny but it didn’t work out. Just like us, bears don’t get on with everyone, so we were slightly tentative as to how she would respond to her new housemates. But we needn’t have worried…

The best of friends

Within days of Jeanne being introduced to Pindari, another female bear, a strong and beautiful bond developed between them.

Jeanne and Pindari are the best of friends” Ryan Marcel Sucaet, Bear & Vet Team Director who managed the Nanning homecoming explains. “Pindari follows Jeanne everywhere and they protect each other from the younger, more rambunctious males! It’s a really remarkable relationship.”

The healing qualities of sanctuary life

Jeanne has adapted to sanctuary life really well and is reaping the benefits of fresh air and open spaces to play in. “While at Nanning Jeanne’s hindquarters would become bald, inflamed and itchy through the summer, but this hasn’t happened since being at Chengdu”, Ryan said. 

Yang Li, Bear Team Manager and Jeanne’s primary carer added, “Jeanne loves the natural grasses, branches, straw and leaves we give her and spends ages playing with banana leaves and the bamboo puzzle feeders.”

“She seems to enjoy scouting around the enclosure foraging for treats and then will climb into the basket bed in her den for a well-earned nap.”

Thanks to the Marchig Animal Welfare Trust and our supporters across the world, Jeanne and the other Nanning bears are finally safe, healthy and happy… and their lives can now truly begin.

Read more: 

Watch the Nanning Moon Bear Homecoming film