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Visit to a Moon Bear Paradise

June, 2006
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Etoile  It was the day I could finally go to see the Moon Bears at the sanctuary of Animals Asia Foundation (AAF) in Chengdu in Sichuan Province. Jill  Robinson, the founder of AAF, was waiting for us at the gate.

  Robinson first took us to the education room, where lots of pictures were displayed everywhere with models of metal jackets and crush cages. Crush cages are the cages the bears are trapped in for years and years.

  On the wall there was a full-sized picture of Andrew, the first Moon Bear that AAF ever rescued. Sadly, Andrew passed away in February 2006 from liver cancer.

  In the sanctuary, the bears are housed in enclosures during the day and dens at night. The enclosures are large areas with lots of things to keep the bears busy, such as toys, hidden snacks, ponds, platforms and swings. Each den has about four beds where the bears just sit and sleep. They love their beds!

  We spent the most time at the Special Care Bear enclosure, which has no electric wires. This enclosure houses 3 bears: one blind bear, one brain-damaged bear and an extremely old but petite female bear named Franzi, who is over 25 years old (or 90 years old in bear years). She is extremely small because she had been locked in a tiny cage for her entire life so she couldn’t have space to grow. Her boyfriend is Rupert, a simple brain-damaged bear.


   While we were looking at these bears, Jill Robinson showed us how she trains Franzi to have a medical check-up. She trained her to open her mouth, bring her chest to the bars and enter a recovery cage. If the bears were not trained to do this, they would have to be put to sleep every time they need just a simple medical check-up.

  Around the corner there is also an enclosure for the disabled bears, which lost their body parts such as legs and paws while they were caged on the bear farms for their bile. But they were all extremely happy. They were rolling around, climbing trees, wrestling each other, playing in the pond…

  On the other side of the sanctuary is a huge enclosure with over 20 bears. These bears are generally healthy, apart from minor injuries left over from their years of torture in the crush cages. The two bears that caught my eye were Aussie and Jasper. Aussie is a huge bear with extremely long legs. Jasper is an extremely playful bear that was always running around. Jasper was so nice we were able to hand-feed her inside her den with small pieces of apples and pears.

  Besides the Moon Bears, I found one of the enclosures for the huge female Grizzly bear Caesar and 2 brown bears from Tibet, which didn’t seem fond of mixing with the Moon Bears.   The whole sanctuary is an amazing bear world to me. The bears are so beautiful and cute. Even though the bears have been through so much pain and suffering at the hands of humans, they seem to have forgotten the past and forgiven whoever did this to them.

  These bears touched my heart!

By Etoile Smulders, a Grade 7 student at the Western Academy of Beijing.

She has set up her own organization called “Kids Against Animal  Cruelty” (KAAC) last October, when she moved to Beijing and realized the serious problem of animal cruelty and how much the animals are in need of help. Smulders hopes that KAAC can spread awareness and educate people about animal cruelty, as well as help other organizations working on animal protection. 

Jane Goodall: “Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.”


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