Pupils learn about bear rescue project

PUPILS at a village school have been given a special insight into life in China by a woman who helped in the rescue of animals trapped in the country's notorious bear farms.

PUPILS at a village school have been given a special insight into life in China by a woman who helped in the rescue of animals trapped in the country's notorious bear farms.

Veterinary nurse Louise Milne, 33, spent six months in Sichuan Province caring for bears which had been imprisoned in small cages and "milked" daily for their bile – an ingredient of Chinese medicine.

Her experiences were emailed back to pupils at Palgrave Primary School, near Eye, as part of a study on China but yesterday she visited the school to talk to the youngsters and to show them pictures of bears being nursed back to fitness and health.

Ms Milne, who went to China in the footsteps of her college friend, Beverley Elmer of Bacton, near Stowmarket, visited the school yesterday to talk about her experiences and to show children pictures of bears being nursed back to fitness and health.


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"In the bear farms they spend their whole lives in cages so small they are unable to stand or turn round.

"They develop sores, infections and open wounds as a result of their confinement and the passing of tubes into their gall bladders in order to extract the bile. It is horrific – the worst thing I have ever seen," she said.

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The charity running the rescue mission, Animals Asia Foundation, started by Jill Robinson of Clacton in Essex, has permission to rescue 500 of the estimated 7,000 bears still in farms in China.

"There is a lot of pressure on the Chinese Government to end bear farming altogether but one of the problems is that many of the people doing it have no other way of earning a living," said Ms Milne, who lives in Norwich and has been a veterinary nurse for 12 years.

In the wild the bears can live up to 30 years but, confined in the small cages, their life expectancy is only ten to 12 years.

"The bears arrive at the sanctuary very sick and frightened and they need a lot of time and patience to encourage them to eat and relax with us in their new home," Ms Milne said.

She found the condition of rescued bears "horrific and traumatic" but obtained great satisfaction from the work of nursing them back to good condition.

Despite being returned to health and fitness the rescued bears are still unable to cope in the wild and live in an extensive, fenced sanctuary where they are regularly fed.

During her time in China, Ms Milne was able to exchange emails with the Palgrave pupils about many aspects of life in China.

The link was the idea of her sister, Trudie West, who lives at Palgrave and has a son, Dylan, five, at the village school.

Animals Asia Foundation relies totally on donations to keep the bear sanctuary running. Further details can be obtained by telephoning 0870 241 3723.

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