Animals Asia has transferred 101 moon bears 1,250 kilometres in China from a former bile farm in Nanning to its bear rescue centre in Chengdu, and a number of celebrities have shown their support.
Moving the animals, also known as Asiatic black bears, over 36 days has been called the largest operation of its kind ever undertaken by any animal welfare organization.
Moon bears are farmed so bile can be extracted from their gallbladders, in a painful process that causes long-term health problems, and be used in traditional Asian medicine for treating liver and gallbladder conditions. Bear bile farming is legal in China and has been illegal in Vietnam since 1992. It still takes place there, however, due to legal loopholes, continuing demand and the prices that can be obtained for the bile.
It’s believed that more than 12,000 animals are being kept on bear bile farms, where they’re often confined to tiny cages and subject to cruel treatment, in the two countries. Animals Asia has rescued more than 600 bears in the last two decades and, along with the Vietnamese government, has pledged to rescue every bear and close every farm in the nation by 2022.
While the Animals Asia team was carrying out this most recent operation, actors Ricky Gervais, Peter Egan and Jimmi Simpson, actresses Judi Dench, Lesley Nicol and Tara Buck, and musicians Matt Sorum, Slash and Rick Wakeman were among those who were waiting to hear good news, as their adopted bears were among those transferred to their new home.
They provided video messages and Tweets of support for the organization and the bears.
Gervais virtually adopted a bear he named Derek that had lost both eyes, and he’s asked his fans to support Animals Asia’s efforts to build a sanctuary in Vietnam to save more bears.
“After a year of bad news, here’s some really good news,” said Gervais in a video. “101 beautiful moon bears, including my bear Derek, made it into Animals Asia sanctuary, in China, after a 750-mile trip.
“Derek and his chums, after a terrible existence on bile farms, can now enjoy the open air, and they get veterinary help and everything. Thank you, Animals Asia.”
Dench had virtually adopted a bear she named Finty after her daughter. She said this in a video:
“Animals Asia have had the most wonderful success. They’ve managed to take many moon bears from a bear bile farm and move them to their sanctuary, where they can live out the rest of their lives, in a way moon bears should, just by being free. Your help is desperately needed. I adopted a moon bear, which I called for my daughter Finty. And Finty is moved too. And she is having a better life.”
Nicol has previously visited an Animals Asia sanctuary to see a bear she sponsored named Miss Pickle Nicol. She shared this in a video:
“They were in this awful bear bile farm. Animals Asia managed to get them free and take over the farm. So for the last seven years they have been treated properly, they’ve been given proper medication. But they haven’t had the sort of space under the luxury of sanctuary life that there is in Chengdu. So, my particular bear, Miss Pickle Nicol, who I’ve met a couple of times in Nanning, was doing OK, but she had a very limited place to live. But she has never been out on grass in her life. And it’s taken Animals Asia about seven years to make the right connections and do the right things to get these bears moved. They finally did it.”
Animals Asia was founded in 1998 and is devoted to ending bear bile farming and improving animal welfare across Asia by promoting compassion and respect for all animals and working to bring about long-term change. It operates sanctuaries in China and Vietnam and is the only organization with a bear sanctuary in China.
Animals Asia also works to end the trade in dogs and cats for food, as well as abusive animal practices in zoos and safari parks, and collaborates with governments and non-government organizations to improve the welfare of companion and captive wild animals.