A Boy Called Polly

Pollyanna Pickering - AFC
January 20, 2012 share
Artists for Conservation

When your life is entwined with wildlife you see both the very best and very worst of humanity. Standing in the education centre in the Animals Asia sanctuary near Chengdu, China I had tears streaming down my face as I held a heavy corset restraint which had been removed from a bear rescued from a bile farm. This instrument of torture had been used to severely restrict the bear's movement, while a hinged panel allowed access for the daily milking of bile through an open wound. I first became aware of the work being done by Animals Asia around 15 years ago, when I helped to fundraise for the creation of the very sanctuary I had now been invited to visit.

In countries across Asia, thousands of bears live a life of torture on bear farms, so that their bile can be extracted and used in traditional medicine to cure ailments. Bears are confined in cages which vary from agonisingly tiny "crush" cages to larger pens, all of which cause terrible physical and mental suffering. Seeing some of the confiscated crush cages on display, brought home the reality of the cruelty people can inflict on animals for commerce.

However, my day at the sanctuary was also wonderfully uplifting. Leaving the education centre, I saw for the first time the wonderful sanctuary where bears rescued from a life of unmitigated misery can enjoy everything they were denied on the farms. Happy, healthy bears have unlimited access to tasty food, the pleasure of roaming in lush natural foliage or swimming in cool water.

Later that day I met Jill Robinson, the founder of the charity. Her passion and dedication are inspirational to anyone involved in animal welfare and conservation. After a day spent observing and sketching the bears we were enjoying a cup of Jasmine tea in Jill's office - when a phone call interrupted our conversation. News had come through of a further 12 bears awaiting rescue from a bile farm in Vietnam where the practise is now illegal. I was delighted to be able to present a cheque from the Pollyanna Pickering Foundation for $10,000.00 to fund the rescue of one of the bears, and his safe transfer to their Vietnamese sanctuary.

I learned that one of the bears awaiting rescue was missing a paw. Bears are often found in the farms with missing limbs, an indicator they have been caught in the wild in a snare trap. Jill explained that it can be harder to find sponsorship or funding for these bears, as many people or organisations prefer to rescue a ‘whole' bear - so I confirmed that the Foundation would be happy to fund the rescue of this bear. Jill immediately asked if they could name the rescued bear ‘Polly' - and I was of course delighted to agree!

Shortly after I returned home I received confirmation that Polly bear had arrived at the sanctuary, and undergone the usual health checks, which revealed just one problem... Polly is a boy!

We are happy to have been able to give this beautiful bear the opportunity to enjoy the rest of his life in the lovely surroundings of the Animals Asia sanctuary in Vietnam. Of all the many cruelties humans inflict on animals, I think bear farming is the worst. The animals are kept in such unspeakably cruel conditions, and are in constant pain sometimes for as long as twenty years. I would like to say a huge thank you to all the supporters of our Foundation for helping us give at least one bear the chance for a better life.

Befriend Polly Bear at http://www.pollyannapickeringstudio.co.uk/catalogue/cheetah-adoption/befriend-polly-bear.


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