Peace Crane by Hilary Taylor

Peace Crane by Hilary Taylor
Picture by Justin Wyatt
To read Hilary's story buy this special book...

This magical story has a touch of the supernatural. When an injured crane is found and nursed, something happens, something magical and inspiring...

Gentle Footprints launched- AS SEEN ON TV

Gentle Footprints was officially launched Fri June 4th at the Hay Festival with guest speaker Virginia McKenna and some of the authors

Buy from Bridge House Publishing by clicking on the link BUY:


Virginia McKenna at Hay Launch

Virginia McKenna at Hay Launch

Animal Anthology To Raise Funds for Born Free

Bridge House Publishing announce new book coming Spring 2010. For more about Bridge House please see their website.
This book is the annual charity book for Born Free...if you want to get involved with promoting and selling this book- email me!

Visit the Born Free Website to find out more about their valuable work...

Visit the Born Free Website to find out more about their valuable work...

Friday, 30 April 2010

Elephant Poems

Her is a poem by T Wangusa: -

The African Elephant

Listen to the blare of annunciation
Of the African elephant, tetrach of the jungle!
Behold what slow, majestic progress on the hoof
Of matriarchs, their young and their one bull
As they head for the waterhole.

Observe what tenderness of the mother for its infant
Standing guard to let it first drink its full,
Together rolling in protective, glorious mud,
Then signaling the way back
To the daily routine
Of reducing tropical forest to grassland.

Then ponder the paradoxical curse of its twin tusks:
From time immemorial
The substance of immortal ornaments:
Ever since the dawn of imperial plunder
Of Africa for export of human souls -

Ivory -
The damnation of the African elephant
To provide exotic cultures
With piano keys and billiard balls.

T Wangusa

Recent news reports say that the sound of African honeybees causes African elephants to retreat and produce a particular 'rumble' accompanied with head shaking to warn other elephants. These rumbles seem to act as a referential signal of external threat. So here is a quick poem about some threats to elephants - penned by me!

Elephant Alert

Warn warn
Buzz buzz
Thrash head
Trunk up

Warn warn
Bang bang
B A N G!
Lash air
Bash bars
and RUN

NB: Next week: The week of the Bear - revisited

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Black Bears in America

How ya’ll doing? I’m Dave and I guess I’m your blogger for the next couple of days. On my first day I’ll start with some general Black Bear stats.
There are three types of North American bears-the Polar Bear (Ursus Maritimus), the Grizzly (Ursus Arctos), and the Black Bear (Ursus Americanus). The most widespread bear on the North American continent is the Black Bear. They inhabit areas from the far Alaskan Range to the mountains of Northern Mexico. The Black Bear’s favorite habitat is prime forest land.
The species name, Americanus, is latin for “Of America”. They were given this name because the Black Bear was first described by European immigrants..
The black Bear is the smallest of the three North American bear species, yet it’s still an impressive animal. The average weight of an adult male is between 250 and 450 pounds. When a Black Bear rears up on its hind legs he can measure six to seven feet tall. When curious of its surroundings, a Black Bear will check the area out by standing to get a view or a good scent.
A bear is able to stand because of the way their paws have evolved. They are omnivores and don’t need to chase down prey like wolves or coyotes. Like humans, bears run flat-footed instead of on their toes. In a straight run some Black Bears have been clocked doing more than thirty miles an hour. (So I guess they could chase down prey if they wanted to).
The Black Bear’s claws have a helpful design which enables them to quickly climb trees. Their claws are unretractable and are curved. When climbing a Black Bear grabs a tree with its front feet and uses its hind legs to push itself upwards. Basically using the same motion as a man climbing to pick a coconut. Coming down the Black Bear gently slides like a fireman down a pole.
Young cubs are more likely than adults to retreat up a tree when threatened. An adult Black Bear will climb a tree to find something to eat or possibly just to take a nap.
Black Bears need a lot of living space. They appear to be massive carnivores but in reality they spend much of their time ranging for vegetation, fruits, and nuts. They will eat tender shoots of grasses and clovers. Black Bears will hunt out and consume water plantain, pickerelweed, water parsnip, and unfurling leaves of sapling trees. They also consume a wide variety of berries- juneberries, raspberries, blueberries, chokeberries, and (my favorite) sarsaparilla. An added treat are the great number of insects they eat- wasps, ants, etc. Unfortunately, with human habitation quickly creeping into their territories, many Black Bears have begun scavenging in trash cans and garbage dumps.
A very fascinating part of a bear’s life is hibernation, but only for the northern branches. Bears of the southern climates do not hibernate. It is surmised that when they became omnivores bears living in the northern climates found it difficult to survive. They had become too large and cumbersome to chase prey through the snow, also winter plants available were too low in nutrients.
In preparation of hibernation a Black Bear will begin gorging himself. (Much like my Uncle George). The Black Bear will consume three times more food per day at this time of year than they do in the spring or early summer. They will feed for almost 20 hours a day, gaining up to one-third of their body weight while they build fat reserves. Some bears will actually double their weight.
After the binge the Black Bear’s body system slowly begins to wind down and blood flow to its limbs gradually decreases.
The bear then will retire to a pre-chosen den. Females are usually the first to hit the hay. When the Black Bear is settled in their heart rate drops to 8 to 10 beats per minute. Its metabolism will function at 50 percent normal. Even though they truly sleep all winter long the Black Bear is easily awakened ( and probably very annoyed when their slumber is disturbed).
Black Bears hibernate for varying lengths of time, most experts agree that their average sleep is three-quarters of the year. Females actually give birth during the hibernation period.
Well that’s it for now, time to let sleeping bears lie.
I’ll be back tomorrow with a little story from my Grandparents.


There are several reasons why the African elephant is an endangered species. Urban expansion is encroaching on the natural habitat. Poaching is a major reason. They are poached for ivory tusks. Also, local Africans kill elephants for meat. In Africa elephant meat is a delicacy and is often consumed.
Another reason is competition for resources such as land, food, water and so on. Ivory can sell for a big price especially to a dealer who doesn't care where it came from.
Elephant calves are often orphaned and so don't grow up nurtured by kin,and can be killed also.
Some African countries would like the ban on ivory sales to be lifted in order to sell off stockpiled ivory from poachers, but they were outvoted earlier this year by Kenya and other countries, and the Ban remains.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Elephants in Captivity

Recent scientific reports have confirmed fears that elephants in zoos live far shorter lives than their wild counterparts. Their breeding record is desperately poor. Elephants in zoos suffer from numerous ailments including obesity, lameness and behavioural abnormalities. And they die from elephant herpes virus. The Kenya Wildlife Service is trying to keep elephants alive except they are responsible for millions of acres and around 300,000 wild elephants. They are trying to do that on less than the cost of a new elephant house.
Elephants in zoos do not serve the best interests of the species.

Habitats and Habits


The African elephant lives in Africa, south of the Sahara Desert in tropical forests, Savannah areas, deserts and river valleys.



Elephants drink water by sucking it up with their trunks and spraying it into their mouths. They pick up food with their trunks, put it into their mouths and then swallow it.
Elephants eat mainly grass and leaves and they drinks lots of water.They eat in the morning, in the evening and during the rest of the day. Up to 200kg of food is needed daily.


Males travel alone and the females travel in groups with the younger elephants.
The bulls are bigger than the cows.
Bull = 3.4 m (height) and 5.4 metric tonne(weight)
Cow = 2.8m (length) and 3.6 metric tonne (weight)


Elephants are ready to mate at the age of 15 to 16, usually with a bull that is able to fight with other bulls in the herd. The mating pair will often separate for a few weeks. After 21 - 22 months one calf is born. It can follow the herd after just a few days. Cows can have 5 to 6 calves in a lifetime.


African elephants like to cool off by playing in the water and mud. The mud will then dry on their skins and this protects them from the sun.They regularly flap their ears for better blood circulation and to keep them cool. Elephants sometimes take a nap during the hottest part of the day. They can do this while standing and laying down.

Saturday, 24 April 2010


The largest mammal on the planet, African elephants are easily recognizable by their long trunk, large ears, and pillar-like legs. Their skin ranges from black to pale grey or brown in colour, they have long ivory tusks, flat forehead and back, 4 toes on front feet, 3 on hind feet. The trunk of the elephant bears 2 fingerlike lips at the tip, which are very sensitive and used to pick up food or other articles and manipulate objects.

Family Ties

The social bonds between family members are strong. In times of danger the group will form a defensive circle, moving all the calves to the centre, the adults facing outwards. Female society is essentially matriarchal. One female is dominant, usually the eldest, with the group being composed of a few closely related adult cows and their young in a stable family unit.

Kenyan elephants are in danger of extinction, due to deforestation, and poaching of tusks for ivory, and body parts.

The Author








The Story

I have always liked elephants for some reason. When I was a child my parents took me to Whipsnade Zoo, where I had a ride on one. Unknown to us, I had caught German Measles, and apparently I was very worried that I had given it to the elephant. I also had dreams that there were elephants in our living room – don’t know what Freud would make of that! So when I thought of writing about an animal, the elephant seemed the obvious choice.

I did a lot of research for Those That are Left, because I wanted the story to be authentic. I researched facts about the way Kenyan elephants live, and how their surroundings affect them, and the danger they increasingly face, from people who kill them for their own ends. Also, I found that there have been studies of elephants emotional behaviour, which showed that they react intensely to bereavement or separation from close family. This worked in well with my idea of a young woman viewpoint character who is like a young female David Attenborough, who has suffered loss herself. At the end of the story, I found that I had learned a lot about this strong yet sensitive species that needs to be protected from danger, but allowed to live freely.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

As my previous posts have been quite long and a perhaps even little ‘evangelical’ I thought I would make this last one short and sweet.

Poetry isn’t really my thing but I found the following poem, written by American poet Mary Oliver, and although it’s not about a Moon Bear specifically, I think it’s still appropriate. I hope you enjoy it.


a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring

down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring

I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue

like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:

how to love this world.
I think of her
like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
the silence
of the trees.
Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its cities,

it is also this dazzling
coming down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her –
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.

A Eureka moment

Having a story published has been, I have to admit, quite a kick. However, I don’t consider myself a ‘proper writer’ yet –I’m nowhere near sufficiently dedicated or disciplined to feel worthy of saying “I’m a writer” – more a civil servant who writes occasionally.

And whilst I am delighted that my story has been successful, this whole experience has actually acted as a bit of a catalyst for me, regarding my hitherto held values and beliefs as far as animals are concerned. I’ve always considered myself to be an animal lover but, to be honest, I have never before questioned what this really means.

Yes, I have loved and cared for all of my ‘pets’ over the years and yes, I actively support a couple of animal charities and, of course, it goes without saying I would never harm, or allow to be harmed, any creature.
But here’s the thing; I’ve taken the kids to the Zoo and driven through Safari Parks many times, and I’ve been lucky enough to swim with dolphins and visit SeaWorld in Florida. I’ve got pictures of me and my family posing with monkeys and exotic birds. I’ve always enjoyed the experience.
Each time, though, I suppose I’ve ignored the little voice in my head and that ‘unsettled’ feeling which came with each visit. I guess I’ve been happy to accept it all in the name of conservation and education.
During my research for the story and since reading various articles and information produced by Born Free and Animals Asia, I’ve actually had a bit of an epiphany.

I’m not saying all zoos are bad, of course not, some are excellent, most are OK and some, sadly, less so. What I have come to realise is that no matter how good a zoo is, it’s still effectively a jail. Wild animals in captivity are not free to behave naturally as they would in their normal habitat; at best they are restricted, manipulated, bored, stressed, traumatised and exploited for our ‘pleasure’. Animal ‘attractions’ give us a few minutes pleasure and we kid ourselves that it’s educational or that we’re helping to preserve endangered species for future generations, and it’s easy to ignore the damage being done to the animals.

When I started writing Jia Ting, I knew precisely nothing about Moon Bears but my research led me on a journey of discovery. The more I learned, the more I came to care about, and respect, these beautiful, intelligent and majestic creatures. There are so many stories of rescued bears who, despite years of incarceration, abuse, mental cruelty and physical pain at the hands of bear farmers, are still prepared to trust, to accept and to give. In spite of what they have endured, they remain gentle, generous and forgiving. What remarkable and dignified animals they are.

Surely there can be no sane reason to trap wild bears in ways which are vicious beyond belief, and no justification for bear farming for their bile – or anything else - when many natural and synthetic alternatives exist and are equally effective in traditional Chinese medicine.

There can be no excuse for keeping bears in such horrendous tomb-cages and incarcerated them for years and there can be no defence of the brutal treatment, shameful cruelty and despicable neglect which these bears are constantly subjected to in the name of medicine.

This whole process has taught me so much and, in future, I will be more focussed on helping to keep animals free and wild and on preserving their natural habitat, rather than paying to see them in captivity. Like all wild animals, the Moon Bears deserve a better life, a free life, a wild existence and a safe and secure future.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Franzi's story

Every bear at the AAF Sanctuary in Chengdu, China, has a heart-rending and tragic tale to tell, and each one deserves to be told. However, today I thought I would tell you just one – the story of ‘Franzi’ who sadly passed away late last year. I confess I have borrowed heavily from Jill Robinson’s own blog, but only in an attempt to do the story justice as her description of Franzi is so eloquent, and the love and respect felt for this little bear shines through.

Franzi was rescued in December 2002 and brought to the sanctuary in Chengdu. She was the tiniest bear cringing in the corner of the smallest cage the staff had ever seen. Franzi had given up all hope – and small wonder.
Cruelly declawed and de-toothed, a large abscess under her chin, and a hole in her abdomen pouring with bile and pus, Franzi was a victim of the bear farm industry, milked daily for her bile. Here too, in all her glory, was the most perfect and tragic example of an animal with “stress dwarfism”; possessing a “normal” bear-shaped head, but a crudely stunted body, she was a shell of an animal who had been squashed and trapped in a cage for 25 years of her life.

She wouldn’t make eye contact at all, but stared at the bottom of her cage, her chest rising and falling as she breathed great gulps of fear in anticipation of who would hurt her next. Suddenly her nose quivered and her head turned towards Jill Robinson, as she caught the smell of something never before experienced, but just too tempting to ignore. Here was a fruity shake with strawberries, apples, mangos, condensed milk and jam, just in front of her nose – and, even more astonishingly, it was all for her. Gingerly poking out her soft, pink tongue, Franzi took her first taste – and there was no going back as she closed her eyes and slurped, and slurped, and slurped. As she got to the bottom of the pot Jill poured the rest onto her fingers and felt the softness of her velvety lips as she gently sucked the remainder of the best drink of her life.

From there it was all on her terms. Her love of grapes saw her spitting out the skin and pips in contempt until she had taught staff that they were never to be offered again without peeling and de-seeding them first. Then, standing firm when staff nervously tried a variety of “proper” bear food until once again they relented and offered her exactly what she was holding out for – her favourite sachets of dog food with gravy.

In January 2003, a short time after she arrived, she continued to worry everyone with her bouts of ill health and refusal to eat. A particular worry was her constant respiratory effort and associated lung problems. It “didn’t look good”.

Seven years later, and in her normal style of ignoring all sound veterinary science and advice, Franzi happily tottered on, enjoying her life and deciding for herself exactly when it is time to go. And, when staff weren’t worrying about her, Franzi always made them laugh. Politely described as a “windy” bear, she would burp and fart with abandon – usually when she was being shown her off to a very large group of visitors; timing it just right as they stood respectfully around her den, listening to the poignant story of this very special bear with a sad and tragic past. How could they be serious when she let rip with all the smugness of an elderly Aunt!

This rather choosy female who had hated the presence of all other bears in “her” space, finally became attracted to the brain-damaged Rupert – and the most unique and loving friendship was born. They adored each other – Franzi weighing a paltry 60kgs and literally dwarfed by a bear three times her size, but who was dominated by her from beginning to end. She would flirt and flounce in spring and then walk away when he appeared interested – leaving him to cosy up to a bag full of straw.

Eventually though, and even with constant medication and veterinary care, her abdomen became unnaturally distended and uncomfortable because her heart and lungs were struggling to cope. With 6 litres of fluid drained only a few weeks earlier it became clear that the treatment could not continue and her quality of life told staff that it was time for her to go.
With indescribable sadness, Jill offered this brave little bear her last supper. Adopting her perfect pose of sitting up at the den bars, she began her small meal with a taster of rich beef and gravy dog food, followed by a piece of mince tart. The latter in recognition that a) she wouldn’t see Christmas and b) in recognition of the “hot little tart” she had been christened, by Steve Irwin (rest in peace).

So, sleeping under anaesthetic in her final health check, blissfully unaware that her special care area was as full as it could be, her ‘family’ gathered around her to say goodbye.
No bear since Andrew, the very first rescued bear, has commanded so much respect from staff across the sanctuary who crowded in to hold her paws and say a respectful, tearful farewell – and from staff across the world who remember her only with love.

This is what Moon Bear rescue is all about. This is why help is so needed.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Moon Bear Rescue - the story so far...

Despite the prevalence of the illegal trade in bear gallbladders and bile products, China continues to promote the idea that it can maintain a bear farming industry that is both sustainable and humane. To that end, the CITES Management Authority in China created a list of standards for bear farms.

The idea being that only farms meeting those standards could be registered with CITES and be allowed to trade bear products internationally.Back in July 2000, the Chinese government signed an agreement to deliver 500 bears to the Animals Asia Foundation (AAF), providing them with veterinary care, rehabilitation, and sanctuary. It was agreed that by 2005 these bears would be taken from the most primitive farms in the Sichuan province, which the government would then shut down, and that during the following ten years the program would be expanded into other provinces.

AAF has rescued over 700 bears since 2000 and those who have survived will live out their days in their safe, secure sanctuary in China. Many bear farms have been closed down and no new licences have been issued by the Chinese government.

While this may represent a small percentage of the total number of bears on farms in China, the Moon Bear Rescue Centre is a focal point for education and awareness on the issue, attracting a tremendous amount of local and international interest. People all over China have been shocked by reports in the media on the bear farming industry. The bears surrendered to the rescue centre come in all ages and condition.

Perhaps one of the most important roles of the sanctuary is the compilation of veterinary and scientific evidence which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that bear farming is inhumane and hurts wild bear populations as well. With this evidence, it is hoped that China will eventually end bear farming for good.

The rescue work continues under the direction of the remarkable Jill Robinson MBE, Founder and CEO of AAF and ostensibly miracle worker on behalf of Moon Bears.
AAF has a huge undertaking: the rescue, rehabilitation and care of all rescued bears in China and Vietnam for the rest of their years while steadily working towards ending bear farming.

To be successful they need the help of people like you to volunteer your time to help spread the word about the plight of the bears, and to raise the precious funds necessary for them to continue this vital work.

There are AAF support groups in various places across the UK, and in other countries, and there are lots of small, practical but vitally useful ways you can help. Please visit the AAF website for more information.

The heartbreaking truth

The population of Moon Bears in the wild has declined steadily, due to loss of habitat and the harvesting of their bile and body parts. Population figures for the wild Moon Bear in China are causing concern - with estimates ranging from 50,000 to as low as 15,000.
Moon Bears are listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) as Appendix 1 - the most critical category.

Bear bile has been an ingredient in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years, but intensive bear farming only came into existence in the 1980s when China's supply of wild bears began running low. The farms, however, often house bears in the most appalling conditions, subject to terrible pain, mental distress and painful, usually untreated, infections which often prove fatal. Moon Bears are the species most impacted upon by the trade in bile and gall bladders. It is estimated that more than 7,000 Moon Bears are held in bear farms across China alone, with possibly a similar number again captive across the rest of southern Asia.

There are herbal and synthetic alternatives to bear bile which are 100% equal to bear bile in effectiveness. Additionally, veterinary evidence suggests that bile from farmed bears is often contaminated with pus and other detritus as a result of the conditions in which it is extracted.
Usually bile is extracted from the bears' gallbladders twice a day through a surgically implanted tube. The process, called "milking," produces only 10–20 ml. of bile each time. Milking is clearly painful for the bears, and they are often seen moaning and chewing their paws during the process.
Sometimes the farmers just push a hollow steel stick through a bear's abdomen, and the bile runs into a basin under the cage. Surgery to insert the tube or stick is seldom performed by veterinarians - very few bear farms employ them. Roughly half of the bears die from infections or other complications.

On most bear bile farms, the bears are housed in cages that are so small that these animals are unable to sit up or turn around. The bars crushing their bodies leave deep scars. Often bears have head wounds from banging them against the bars. Many of the bears have broken and worn teeth from biting the bars. Usually claws and large canine teeth are removed – often barbarically – to remove the bear’s defences.

Captive-bred cubs are taken from their mothers at three months. Infant mortality is high. Captive mothers often eat their young, a behaviour attributed to the stress of captivity because it seldom occurs in the wild. Some farms train cubs to perform in circuses until they are about 18 months old. Milking of the gallbladder begins at three years and can continue for as long as the bear produces bile - up to 20 years.

Once their bile productivity has been exhausted, they are often left to starve to death. Some farmers will hack off their paws to sell to a restaurant as a delicacy and the bears are left to die an agonizing death from their injuries.

It's no secret that products from wild bears are sold in China. Gallbladders, once smuggled to Japan and Korea, can fetch several thousand dollars. Although the Chinese government claims that captive breeding is successful, bear farms regularly restock with wild bears caught in vicious leg-hold traps which mutilate the bear’s limbs.

Tomorrow? What is being done for the Moon Bears.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Here are some interesting facts – the pleasant stuff first:

Moon Bears are actually “Asiatic Black Bears” and get their affectionate name from the crescent moon shaped markings across their chest. Every Moon Bear's chest markings are different in colour and shape; ranging from cream or pale yellow to deep orange-gold, and from deep V's to delicate crescents, some are even speckled!

They are found in heavily forested areas all across Southern Asia, from Pakistan, throughout China, to Japan. They often live at higher altitudes but have a large home territory which can take in many different terrains.

Adult Moon Bears weigh anything up to 450 lbs. with the male growing to almost double the size and weight of the female. They are similar in size and appearance to the American black bear, to which they are closely related.

They love to climb and tend to sleep in trees or caves and their diet consists of fruit, vegetables, insects, small animals, carcasses and yes, they do love honey! In fact they like it so much they will break open bee-hives with their heavy paws, often being painfully stung on their muzzle many times over just to get to the treat inside. Occasionally, Moon Bears may attack livestock or raid crops.

Moon Bears tend to be solitary and crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) once they reach adulthood. They can survive for up to 35 years in captivity, though usually live for 25 -30 years in the wild. They often hibernate between November and April and tend to give birth to twins in April or May. Although weaned by 4-6 months, the cubs stay with their mothers for around the first two years of their life.

They have a large vocabulary, making clucking sounds during play, "tut-tut-tut" sounds in warning and huffing sounds when about to attack. Females are more vocal than males.

Moon Bears love water and like nothing more than swimming and splashing around! You’ll often find them lounging around belly up in shallow pools.

Like most bears, Moon Bears are highly intelligent, inquisitive, mischievous and fun loving creatures. They are resourceful, strong and determined in play and foraging for food. They tend to sleep for large chunks of the day when the sun is strongest.

Bears like all creatures are specifically designed for life in their natural environment. Two important features the bears are long, strong and sharp claws and exceedingly long tongues. Their claws aid them in climbing, digging for food and ripping things apart to access the food inside. Their tongues are perfect for extracting hard to get insects, nuts and berries from inside trees or under rocks and logs. Without these attributes it would be much more difficult for them to survive in the wild.

Tomorrow, the tragic plight of the Moon Bears.

Day 2 - So what exactly are Moon Bears?

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Moon Bear Week - Day 1

In this week of the Moon Bear I hope to be able to tell you a little more about these wonderful, striking but sadly vulnerable bears, why they so desperately need our help and why the work of organisations like the Born Free Foundation and Animals Asia is so vital. You may also be interested to know a little about me and why I decided to ‘champion’ the Moon Bear.

But first, let me introduce myself; I’m Diane Reeves and I'm the author of ‘Jia Ting’ which is a story centred on a family of Moon Bears – or the Asian Black Bear to give them their correct title.

If you’re reading this then I’m surmising that you're probably an animal lover, likely a keen reader, possibly a writer and maybe a supporter of the Born Free Foundation or another animal charity. If you are any of these things then we already have something in common.

What else about me? Well, I’m 45 and have been married for 24 happy years – 4 for me 20 for him – yes, I’m joking – and we have a 15 year old daughter. I’m a full time civil servant having worked for the Home Office on Merseyside for almost 25 years. Indirectly, this is what led me to writing.

My work doesn’t really allow for much creativity and as I approached my mid forties, I felt I needed more than facts, figures, procedures and processes in my life. But what?
Now, I can’t sing – at least not in public. I can’t play a musical instrument - although I’ve always had a hankering to have a go at the Saxophone or the Banjo, but that’s another story! I’m not sporty – unless you count supporting Liverpool FC. I was thrown out of my Art class at school for ineptitude, and you really wouldn’t want to see me attempt to dance.
Writing was about the only thing left and I figured I was moderately articulate so thought I’d give it a shot. I completed a Creative Writing Course at Liverpool’s JMU and have been writing in fits and starts since then.

‘Jia Ting’ is my first submission since I began writing less than 2 years ago. To say I was stunned when I learned that my story had been successful is something of an understatement!

My love of animals was forged in childhood. My mum was a Kiwi from good farming stock and we always had an assortment of critters at home. We also ran a city cattery for many years and I loved to help out after school. Whenever possible, we would ‘escape to the country’ and this brought me into contact with various farm animals, donkeys and horses – although being a ‘Townie’ I always had a healthy respect for anything which didn’t sit, stay or walk to heel!
These days we just have a 7 year old Golden Retriever at home and my daughter has a horse at a yard nearby – that’s enough responsibility for a working mum.

So why Moon Bears? Well, about the time I saw the Bridge House call for submissions, I was at my local vet’s surgery and they were selling calendars in which some of the veterinary nurses had posed to raise money for the Moon Bears. To be honest, I’d never even heard of Moon Bears then but after hearing a little about the rescue work that the Animals Asia Foundation is doing in China I went home and did some research. I can’t tell you how shocked and distressed I was by what I discovered.

It seems most people are aware that animals such as Tigers, Giant Pandas and Polar Bears are under threat and on the endangered list, but this is only because these are the sexy, beautiful, cute, or iconic images which seem to get all the publicity. Now, I’ve always been a sucker for the underdog and so, in the hope of raising their profile and contributing something to alleviating the suffering of the Moon Bears, I decided to write about these remarkable creatures.

Whenever I mentioned to friends that I was writing a story about Moon Bears, the response was always “What Bears?” I think this just illustrates how little people know about them and the terrible cruelty they endure in China and throughout Asia.

If I can help to raise awareness – even a tiny bit – and make more people sensitive to their plight, by doing something which I enjoy, then I think that’s the very least I can do.
More about these beautiful creatures tomorrow.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Image Gallery

Well, I have tried to cover most things this week- and tried not to overlap too much with the Snow Leopard- sorry if it's been a bit of a mixture. Hopefully, like all these posts the message is clear- animals belong in the wild- not in cages. And what organisations like Born Free do is pick up the pieces after humans have interfered- hunted, captured, destroyed habitat- etc. I think the same story is emerging with all of the animals featured on the Blog and it's a sorry one.

If we stop one person from going to a zoo then we've achieved something- but let's hope we stop a lot more than that. We need this message out there LOUD and CLEAR!

So I will end with some pictures and let you decide which ones you'd rather see...

Sure the cubs are cute but what kind of life will they have- I suspect this:

Seen enough?
Wouldn't you rather see this?

Or this- a leopard hunting

I will leave you with this image-

Next Week Diane will delight you with the Moon Bear

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Leopards and Conservation

Intelligent and agile leopards are skilled hunters who rely on stealth, camouflage and lightning-speed reactions. But many wild populations are under threat due to human pressures and habitat loss, while captive animals are exploited in zoos and circuses.

Africa’s leopard subspecies are not considered in immediate danger of extinction but the IUCN Red List, which lists all rare species of animals, classes Asia’s leopard subspecies as Endangered and Critically Endangered.

Born Free are involved in a number of projects-


Adopt leopard triplets click here to find out more

Tomorrow: Photo Gallery

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Leopards in Art and Literature

I did not come across that much when I searched for this-apart from the Rudyard Kipling story yesterday and a number of children's books. The leopard is used a lot as a metaphor as in changing spots but does not have the symbolism associated with it like we saw for the wolf. However I have come across a whole mish mash of leopard things that I have put in for a bit of fun!

The Last Leopard

The Leopard

The Leopard

Natural History


Toys n Disney!

As I said just a random selection today!

Tomorrow the serious stuff: Born Free and Leopard Conservation