Did you see Bears about the House, with conservationist Giles Clark, on BBC2?
Giles Clark had gone to help the charity Free the Bears in Laos with a gorgeous little sun bear cub, Mary, and two delightful bear cubs David and Jane who don’t have such a happy ending.
It was riveting television and a chance to learn an lot about the way charities are working to help captive bears and little bear cubs found in the wild. Mary moves to an enclosure of her own with trees and a climbing frame.
I love the charity Free the Bears. Like so many charities, they are going through a very difficult time because the coronavirus has brought a halt to all the fundraising activities they ran to bring in money to keep rescuing bears and to care for the bears in their sanctuaries in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Sun bears and moon bears (also cared for by Free the Bears) are endangered, listed on the IUCN Red List as Vulnerable to extinction.
As an example, sun bears such as Mary (who was featured in Bears about the House) are the smallest of all bears, but they have a tongue which is 30cm long (that’s a foot!), huge paws and a sun-shaped patch on their chest which gives them their name.
Sun bears are excellent climbers – they live in tropical forests in South East Asia. There they spend more time than other bears in trees, and make nests there. They are crucial for seed dispersal and pest control.
The problem sun bears have is that they have lost 60% of their land due to habitat destruction and over-exploitation. Not only that, they are hunted for their paws and their gallbladders – these are sold on the black market.
So they need protecting.
As governments work to tackle the illegal wildlife trade, so Free the Bears has more to do, rescuing bears who have been held captive for bear bile farming, educating the public, looking after the bears they have rescued – so far 950 in all. As more bear bile farms close and Free the Bears rescue those bears, so they need to build more enclosures. These bears have been captive, in some cases for a very long time. They cannot go into the wild upon release – they need gentle, loving and knowledgeable expert care, sometimes for ever.
This video shows the incredible difference Free the Bears made to a number of bears back in 2020.
Sun Bears and Moon Bears have bear necessities
- They need a healthy diet of fresh fruit and vegetables, with dog biscuits for protein and also pulses and grains
- They are clever so they need a variety of enrichment activities to stimulate their minds
- They love to have their own space so they have climbing platforms and hammocks – most bears don’t see other bears in the forest; they are very private
- Many of the bears need veterinary care, some for a while. Remember that many have been used for bear bile farming – a needle has been injected into their gallbladders to access their bile whilst the bears have been drugged
- Their enclosures have an environment that’s as near as possible to the natural habitat the bears would normally enjoy – these enclosures need maintaining.
Of course, this all costs.
To help fund their work, Free the Bears are developing Volunteer Programmes and Bear Care Tours. And they have fundraisers working hard to help raise funds. Of course, these programmes, tours and normal fundraising activities came to a halt when the coronavirus hit. Fundraising has been hit very hard.
Free the Bears need help!
If you’re looking for a meaningful gift for a bear lover that will really make a difference, or you simply want to get involved and help, you could help the bears that Free the Bears are looking after:
- Be a bear carer – there are different levels available from £5.00 a month.
- Sponsor a bear (£240 for a year)
- Send a gift to the bears such as a jar of honey, a hammock, a climbing frame, a cub care kit donation, a bathing pool donation, a treat ball donation
- Send a gift for a bear lover to your human!
- Simply donate!
Free the Bears is a remarkable charity, founded by Dr Mary Hutton (now 82 but she did her stint during the Night in a Cage fundraiser in May 2020) and they need our help. They are struggling.
Want to become a Bear Carer?
There are four levels and I quote (pretty much)
- BEAR ANGELS (£50/mth) provide a healthy diet for 20 days, enrichment to stimulate minds, vet care, hammocks and pools.
- BEAR CARERS(£25/mth) provide a healthy diet for 10 days, enrichment treats to stimulate the bears' complex minds or vital veterinary care.
- CUB CARERS (£13/mth) provide the vital specialist care required for vulnerable cubs which come into our care after their mothers have been killed by hunters.
- BEAR BUDDIES (£5/mth) provide a healthy diet for 2 days or help provide daily enrichment treats to stimulate the complex minds of the bears.
You can pay in a number of currencies, including Euros and American or Canadian dollars, and Australian dollars.
Whatever you do, please do something to help.
The bears need us all to act. They have been rescued and they need our help to ensure they get all the wonderful loving care and attention they need for the rest of their lives.