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Conservation Project #1

Over the past 6 weeks I have spent countless hours researching animal conservation programs for me to travel to and volunteer with, from Africa to Sweden and everything in between! As you can imagine, the list was endless.

As mentioned in my first blog, my goal is to be able to work with as many animals as possible and volunteer in a range of different conservation programs. In order to do that, I will need to stagger my trip throughout different times of the year so I can concentrate on particular areas of the world and encounter different animals throughout the right seasons. Doing it this way will enable me to maximise my time and experiences.

I am really excited to announce that my first volunteer project will be with a fantastic organisation called, Free The Bears.

FTB was founded in 1993 by an Australian women called Mary Hutton (pictured above) after watching a documentary on Bear Bile Farming that showed Asiatic Black Bears (also known as Moon Bears) being held in tiny cages with unsterilised catheters inserted directly into their gall bladders. The Bears were abused, in incredible pain and kept in filthy conditions all so their capturers could harvest their bile and sell it to traditional Chinese medicine practitioners.

Mary was devastated by what she saw and decided she wanted to make a change. And so she did.

The very next day, Mary drew up a petition and stood at her local shopping mall collecting signatures to help bring awareness to what was happening to these Bears. Her petition took off and within a few months she had thousands of signatures. By 1995 FTB was officially registered as a non-for-profit charity. A huge accomplishment!

Word spread and she was soon being contacted by people from all over offering to help. One particular request came from Australian business man, John Stephens, who dedicated his time bringing awareness to the Sun Bears who were being used in Cambodian Restaurants for Bear Paw Soup. John had been rescuing the Sun Bears from the meat industry but needed somewhere to home them. Mary knew she needed to do something and so she organised for the Sun Bears to be brought into Australia to start a regional breeding program and decided to build a Sanctuary in Cambodia, which is now the world's largest Sanctuary for Sun Bears.

Soon after, Free The Bears Fund joined forces with Wildlife SOS and International Animal Rescue as they attempted and successfully rescued India’s dancing Bears. Wind forward seven years and the last of India’s dancing Bears have been handed over into FTB's care and the sight of Bears being dragged on ropes through the streets of India is no longer a reality but merely a memory that no one wants to be reminded of.

FTB work is far from over and they now strive to bring an end to Bear Bile Farming in Vietnam and to protect the Bears in Laos' who are under constant threat.

Free The Bears vision is simple. They want a world where Bears are valued as an integral part of the natural environment and are no longer exploited or abused.

I don't know about you, but this vision inspires me to want to be a part of that integral change, and so I will.

During my time with Free The Bears I will be getting my hands as dirty as possible by assisting with a range of tasks. From maintaining the Bear enclosures so we can make sure they are living in clean conditions, preparing and distributing their food, making Bear hammocks & toys, working closely with the Bear keepers so I can learn about the Bear Bile Farm industry & the process of rescuing the Bears and most importantly coming up with ways of how we can help.

Watch this space as I update you on my time at the sanctuary and introduce you to the hard working people and most importantly the rescued Bears.

To learn more about this cause, please watch this incredibly touching video below.

<3 Pascale

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