After 55km trekking on the Great Wall, cycling across Beijing, bussing through the countryside, and flying half-way across the county, we finally arrived at the Animals Asia Moon Bear Sanctuary outside Chengdu. For many in our group their journey with the Moon Bears began five and even ten years ago. That made our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see them up close and personal even more significant.
The tears were streaming and emotions were running high and Jill Robinson, the founder of Animals Asia, and Ann, the Australia Director led us around the perfectly manicured 26-acre facility that now houses over 150 rescued bears.
We spent the morning watching breakfast time for the newest additions to the sanctuary before getting an inside look at the actual practices of bear bile farming in the education centre. To say it is a ghastly and incredibly inhumane practice is a gross understatement. While tough to take, it was important to gain a better understanding of what still takes place in areas across Asia. We next stopped into a surgery room, where the resident veterinarian was performing a biannual check-up. Yes, that’s a bear on the operating table!
After lunch in the team cafeteria we got an update from Jill on the current work of Animals Asia to stand behind the Chinese people against this horrific practice.
From there it as off to meet Jasper (above), perhaps the world’s most famous Moon Bear. He has been living at the sanctuary for over a decade and, without question, rules the roost. We even had a chance to see him defend a lady bear against a few overly keen males. “Typical,” Jo said.
We were joined by several additional guests later in the afternoon to celebrate the official opening of the new Bear Kitchen, where over 500 kilograms of food is prepared every day for the furry residents. It was a brilliant opportunity to grasp the scale of the operation. Our final stop was the site where bears that have passed away are remembered. It was a touching and respectful place of tribute. Jo had the opportunity to say a heartfelt goodbye to Cookie, the bear she has sponsored for many years who passed away in February. She placed a small stone atop the traditional Chinese pyramid-shaped gravesite, said a few words, shed a few tears, and slowly stepped away.
That evening the team hosted us on the roof under the moon itself to celebrate the incredible fundraising and trekking effort of the Animals Asia Inspired Adventures team. We even got to see the cuddly bears hop into their hammocks and doze off into bear dreamland. To say it was adorable is a gross understatement!
To think what has been done to these impressive, important, valuable creatures far exceeds disturbing. As we drove away, however, I think it gave us all a sense of relief to know that the entire staff at Animals Asia are working to end this horrific industry. They can be sure that with their reinvigorated resolve and commitment, this group of 20 epic fundraisers will continue to stand with them.
Now, a few more pictures of these adorable creatures:
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