Bears' Print Newsletter Nov 2022

Please enjoy our bi-annual newsletter featuring achievements of the Free the Bears family we can all be proud of, including details of our amazing 18 bears rescued in the past 6 months. Read or download the full newsletter by clicking here or highlights below.



Dear Supporters and Friends,

Greetings to everyone in our Free the Bears family. I’m very proud to let you know that since our last newsletter update was published 6 months ago your support has led to the rescue of another 12 orphaned sun bears and moon bears from a lifetime of suffering, kept in small cages, often starved, stressed and sick, sometimes mutilated to extract bile from their gall bladders. 9 of the 12 were young orphaned cubs who likely went through the trauma of watching their mothers killed by poachers before being trafficked into the illegal wildlife trade. One of the bears rescued was the last caged bear in Binh Phuc Province, Vietnam, bringing Vietnam one step closer to ending the suffering of bears caged in bile farms and the illegal trade. Thank you for supporting our efforts and allowing these beautiful bears to be rescued and given a chance to live a life free from fear, pain and suffering.

As the rescues continue so does our need to expand and improve our bear sanctuaries in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. With some of our facilities and bear houses now over 20 years old, our sanctuary teams in all countries have been busily repairing and renovating. We’ve opened brand new bear houses in Laos and Vietnam, with the bear houses in Laos immediately filled by growing cubs while in Vietnam the additional space will allow for more bears to be rescued from the bear bile farms, where they’ve been suffering for over 17 years.

At our multi-species Luang Prabang Wildlife Sanctuary new enclosures have also been built for rescued macaques. Across all of our sanctuaries we’re commencing construction of facilities to investigate and progress a bear release programme, designed to preserve wild sun bear and moon bear populations in suitable protected areas. This will be a huge undertaking over many years, involving extensive research and monitoring of bears and protected forests, but is necessary if we are to have any hope of preserving the forests, wild bears and other wildlife. With Covid restrictions now relaxed across SE Asia, our Education and Awareness teams are back in action inspiring the bright young minds who will be the conservationists of the future. It’s exciting to once again be hosting schools, volunteers and youth groups as well as welcoming World Expeditions’ groups back to our sanctuaries. We’re extremely grateful to the institutional donors that provide us with grants to help develop vital infrastructure and progress our research and education initiatives.

With the easing of Covid restrictions in Australia our wonderful state support groups have been able to ramp up activities with quiz and bingo nights, sausage sizzles, stalls, cafes, raffles, garage sales and presentations across the country. My heartfelt thanks to our family of bear carers and those who endured an uncomfortable Night In A Cage (and those who sponsored them) during our May fundraiser. My Night in a Cage was uneventful apart from having Covid diagnosed two days prior and feeling pretty ill. However, feeling horrible was nothing compared to what our beautiful bears suffer before rescue. Thank you to the compassionate people who sponsored me.

We were finally able to celebrate 27 years of Free the Bears with a lovely luncheon by the sea in August. It lifted my spirits to see so many kind and familiar faces, many of whom have been helping the bears for decades. A special thank you to our patron Rove McManus and MC Alex Cearns for your wonderful words and your many years of support. It’s hard to believe another year has flown by. We seem to have achieved so much in the past 12 months, but with many bears still suffering, there is much to do. I look forward to bringing you news of many more rescues in 2023. Have a healthy, happy and safe festive season and thank you for your support. Bear hugs, Mary


Many of the cubs we’ve rescued over the past few years are reaching their adult size, requiring moves as they graduate from the Cub Nursery to larger forest enclosures. We’ve taken this opportunity to upgrade and reengineer some of the enclosures as well as renovate and improve bear houses. Our animal care team have been busy implementing improvements over recent months and following a bumper wet season, the sanctuary is looking fantastic and we have many happy bears enjoying their new enclosures.

We recently had quite a scare when much of the Phnom Tamao forest which surrounds the Cambodia Bear Sanctuary (and where many rehabilitated animals have been released) was sold to developers. Within a matter of days over a thousand acres of forest disappeared as the bulldozers rolled in and started demolishing everything in site. After a public outcry the Prime Minister stepped in and banned any more clearing of the forest, with a promise (signed by the King) that the forest will remain protected. We were incredibly relieved and grateful to Prime Minister Hun Sen for his intervention and the forest which was cleared has already been replanted.

We recently completed construction of a new biosecurity facility for staff and have also made progress on our Research Centre. Special thanks go to Fondation Brigitte Bardot for a grant which has allowed us to renovate and upgrade the Wildlife Hospital. We’ve also broken ground on a Stage 1 Prerelease facility, part of an initiative to investigate the potential for future releases to protected forest.

Our Education Program has become very active again since Covid restrictions were lifted, with vists from various international schools. We’ve also made presenatations to schools about the effects on wildlife of deforestation and have hosted visiting youth groups, with more planned. In the near future all the local high school students from a district located close to the sanctuary will visit our Cambodia Bear Sanctuary to learn about the bears of Cambodia, the work we are doing and what they can do to help preserve Cambodia’s wildlife. 

Bear Care Tours by international visitors continue to gain traction as more tourists return to Cambodia, and we’re very happy to have volunteers return and help us care for the bears and maintain the sanctuary, with our volunteer house full for most of July and August. We still have places available to volunteer in Cambodia up until mid-March next year, after which we’ll move volunteering opportunities to our Cat Tien Bear Sanctuary in Vietnam (offering volunteering in multiple countries isn’t feasible due to the impacts of Covid). Please email for more details if you are interested. With travel possible again we were able to have our first staff exchange in many years, welcoming team members from Laos to share ideas, learnings and laughs.

Our vet team has been as busy as ever with many health checks to catch up on after Covid placed a pause on health checks for almost 2 years due to logistical issues. The team enjoyed a great trip to Laos in June for a valuable vet workshop with our entire vet team and a visiting specialist. Our research team has also been busy with a fascinating new paper published about the role of wildlife medicine by healers who practice traditional Khmer medicine (congratulations to Thona on this achievement). We also recently hosted researchers conducting valuable research into the metabolic rates of bears and the sense of smell of sun bears.

It’s been a relatively quiet year of rescues in Cambodia - whether that’s because there are less bears in the forest, or people are hunting less, or the smugglers are getting better at moving them out of the country, we do not know. One thing we do know is that we can never be sure what next week will bring, so we are always ready to rescue any bear in need. Thank you for your support. We wish everyone a very healthy and safe holiday season, see you in 2023!


Since our May update we’ve rescued another 9 bears, 7 of which were orphaned cubs. In May there were 2 separate rescues of male and female sibling moon bear cubs. During the second rescue our team were notified of another bear in an adjoining province. We sent an extra car to meet the rescue team halfway and rushed the vulnerable young cubs back to the sanctuary while the original team went on to rescue a small male moon bear purchased as a tiny cub and kept as an illegal ‘pet’. We initially thought he was younger due to his small size, but it turns out he was already 4 years old, stunted in size due to lack of nutrition as a cub (he’d had a sibling who had died as a cub). In late August our government partners notified us of 2 more cubs in northern Laos. Once again while on the road we learnt of a third cub, reported by a tourist who saw it being used to lure customers to a resort. Located in the same province, our team was able to rescue the 3 female cubs in one morning. Just 2 weeks later we rescued another orphaned female moon bear. She has joined the other 3 cubs in the Cub Nursery and they are all helping each other recover from the terrible traumas they’ve suffered.

With so many rapidly growing rescued cubs (33 bears cubs rescued in the past 3 years, as well as many older bears), it was great to finally open Bear House 7 (special thanks to AJN Steelstock Ltd). 2 groups of male moon bears have moved into their beautiful new bear house and are loving their forest enclosures. We have more bear moves planned for the coming weeks and have already started on the foundations for Bear House 8 in anticipation of more rescues. Our construction team, who have been working non-stop since 2017, just completed Primate Field 3, featuring a lovely new monkey house and forest enclosure for rescued macaques. The team are also working on projects to improve the security and functionality of the sanctuary - additional fencing as well as solar-powered water pumping and storage facilities in the upper level of the sanctuary. Our Stage 1 Prerelease facility was recently completed and Stage 2 facility (a semiwild forest enclosure) is now under construction, part of a longer-term project to investigate the possibility of reintroduction of bears to suitable protected areas. Renovations have continued at our Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre, repairing and improving the old bear houses and replacing degrading wooden walkways.

Our vets Dr Meng and Dr Marta have had a busy 6 months. As well as caring for hundreds of animals of many species we had a vet workshop in June for our entire Free the Bears vet team and a visiting specialist. We hosted the vet faculty from the National University of Laos as part of an initiative to help develop knowledge of wildlife medicine, aided by a grant from the US Embassy. Special thanks to volunteer vet Arran who helped for a month and vet nurse Jacqui, who is with us for a year thanks to the Australian Volunteers Program.

A recent staff exchange proved to be very useful with managers from Vietnam and Laos visiting to share ideas and learnings, part of our efforts to continuously improve animal welfare. To cope with the growing numbers of rescues our animal care team has expanded, employing new carers from nearby villages and we’re expanding efforts to engage local communities and provide them with opportunities to improve their futures.

In May we undertook our 3rd major release of rehabilitated wildlife (pangolins, turtles, tortoises and a porcupine) to a safe and protected area, another rewarding milestone. We were more than thrilled to receive our largest ever grant as part of the UK government’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund and recently welcomed the British Ambassador, Jon Pearson, to inspect the progress we’ve made. Once again 6 months has flown by and we’re very proud of all that has been achieved by our growing Laos team, all thanks to your support. We’re very much looking forward to welcoming you to beautiful Luang Prabang in 2023, happy holidays!


Another 3 bears have been spared a lifetime of suffering following two somewhat unusual rescues, all thanks to your support. In June our government partners asked us to rescue a female sun bear that had been kept as a trophy ‘pet’ and caged for over 16 years. We were told she was possibly captured in Cambodia as a young cub and trafficked to Vietnam. She’s a small bear who we initially thought may have been younger than 16, but after a health check it seems more likely she is stunted in size from being malnourished as a cub. She was also the last remaining caged bear in Binh Phuoc Province and her rescue brings Vietnam one step closer to ending the suffering of caged bears. In August we rescued a young female sun bear and a female moon bear cub, again ‘gifts’ originating from Cambodia, caged together with a monkey. Just when we think we’ve seen it all we’ll come across yet another shocking situation. The rescues went well, all three bears are recovering at our sanctuary and they now have the chance to live a life free from pain, fear and suffering. 

Sadly, this isn’t yet the case for the bears still remaining on bile farms in Vietnam. Recently we visited the last 7 bile farms in Dong Nai, a province located close to our sanctuary. We inspected the 19 bears remaining (down from 32 reported less than a year ago) and were greeted with some truly horrific conditions. The first bear we saw was squeezed into a tiny cage and had both front paws missing. When a 2005 law was passed in Vietnam which prevented anyone taking bears from the wild or extracting bile from captive bears, bears already held in cages were allowed to be kept, which means that the bears we saw have been caged for at least 17 years. There is no legal obligation for ‘owners’ to hand them over. All we can do is appeal to their humanity - we’re pleading with them to hand over the bears and allow them a chance to live out their remaining years being well cared for at our sanctuary.

On a more positive note, we recently completed our new Bear House 1A which was specially designed for geriatric and handicapped bears. We’ve already moved 4 elderly female moon bears into the house, two of which you may know, friends Hope and Chance (both elderly bears with snare trap injuries). It’s so heartwarming to see the girls gleefully exploring and embracing their new home. The new house also creates space for recent rescues graduating quarantine as well as future rescues. Special thanks to Welttierschutzgesellschaft e.V. (WTG) for your support of the Cat Tien Bear Sanctuary.

Vietnam is now open with visitors flocking back to the country. Lifting of restrictions has allowed our education initiatives to recommence and we’ve already had groups of students visiting the sanctuary to learn about bears and wildlife conservation, as well as an educational event and fundraising support from the British International School of Ho Chi Minh City (thank you).

After a very wet and stormy rainy season (with storm damage to enclosures and our rescue centre), the forest is looking incredibly thick and lush. Several volunteers have visited for a week to help care for the bears and everyone loved the experience. From April 2023 our Volunteer Programme will be based in Vietnam at our gorgeous Cat Tien Bear Sanctuary. If you’ve already volunteered in the past in Cambodia, or would like to enjoy an ethical holiday of a lifetime, please join us as a volunteer to help care for rescued bears. You won’t be sorry - our sanctuary is located within the beautiful Cat Tien National Park, a popular birdwatching hotspot where you may also be lucky enough to see other wildlife including macaques, langurs, gibbons, deer, porcupine, leopard cat, gaur and more.

We’re continuing our efforts to convince bile farm owners to hand over their bears and we expect more rescues in the near future, but we can only do so with your support. Thank you to all Free the Bears supporters for helping rescue these bears from decades of suffering and bringing bear bile farming in Vietnam to an end. Happy Holidays!


Please join our BEARY PAWSOME ART AUCTION. We have an eclectic collection of art including beautiful sketches & paintings as well as stunning photographic prints, many of which have a bear (or animal) theme. There’s unique pieces (created with iron ore and hair) and we even have pieces created by bears and elephants. Many of the artists and photographers are award-winning!

We’re expecting fierce bidding on a collectors’ investment piece “Partiri - Desert Flowers” by the late Jimmy Kurtnu Pike. We also have a collection of paw prints from the star of BBC’s Bears About the House, Mary Christmas (named after Free the Bears founder Dr Mary Hutton OAM). Accompanying each paw print (taken during her recent health check) is a never-before-seen photograph of Mary with one new picture for each print. If you’d like to have a unique piece of Mary memorabilia, here’s your chance!

There’s something for everyone in the Free the Bears BEARY PAWSOME ART AUCTION. All art has been donated to maximise funds raised as all proceeds go towards helping rescue and care for endangered moon bears and sun bears suffering in bear bile farms and the illegal wildlife trade. Art is for EVERYONE, so please visit the website and make your bid today! You may even find the perfect Christmas gift (for yourself or a loved one).

How? Visit the auction website, fall in love with an art piece (or two), register and place your bid. You will be notified by email if a higher bid is made. The auction is now open for bidding. BIDDING CLOSES Sunday December 4, please visit today and place your bid! Thank you for joining and good luck! View the art & bid at:


Without the courage and actions of our founder Dr Mary Hutton OAM, almost 1,000 bears would be in a far worse situation. The bears we have rescued have been given expert loving care in beautiful sanctuaries and the lives of thousands of people throughout Asia and the rest of the world have been positively impacted. But Mary did not do this alone – along the journey she’s had an amazing support network of like-minded, caring, generous and loving supporters. Yes that’s YOU we’re talking about. Here are just some of the wonderful recent achievements. Thank you to everyone for your support.


Mostly funded by institutional donors, thanks to Welttierschutzgesellschaft e.V. (WTG), the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation & Mandai Nature for ongoing support, as well as Primrose Trust, RZSS, Fondation Brigitte Bardot, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, the UK and Australian Embassies of Laos, AJN Steelstock Ltd, Brown Bear Coffee and the Illegal Wildlife Trade Fund for support. 


Free the Bears has been a beacon of hope for thousands of bears for decades. Every day our charity works towards rescuing more bears from a life of suffering inside bear bile farms and the illegal wildlife trade. As a result, the demands on Free the Bears grow with each passing year as an endless stream of rescued bears arrive at our sanctuaries.

At the very core of Free the Bears is the belief that the actions of individuals can make a difference to help ensure the survival of endangered bears. For many animal lovers, leaving a legacy and passing on something wonderful to the bears in our care and the future generations of bears we'll receive in the years to come is the greatest gift they’ll ever bestow. Gifts in wills have been vital to the survival of Free the Bears. Thanks to these gifts we've been able to rescue more bears & expand sanctuaries to provide the care they require.

Your gift can take many forms, all represent hope for endangered bears. Having an up-to-date will is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your wishes will be carried through to protect the rights of your children and loved ones. After you have provided for loved ones, then you may like to consider including Free the Bears as a beneficiary. If you have already made a Will, perhaps you could consider asking your solicitor to add a codicil, which will incorporate your gift to Free the Bears.

Types of Bequests: Cash or Pecuniary Bequest - a directive in your Will that Free the Bears receive a specific amount from your estate. Specific Bequest - a directive in your Will that specifies property, such as real estate, shares, art, jewellery etc be transferred to Free the Bears from your estate A Residuary Bequest - after providing for your loved ones, Free the Bears will receive a percentage of your estate (for example, 5%). Since a Residuary Bequest is not for a specific amount of money, this sort of bequest keeps its value over the years.

We understand that making a Will is a very personal matter and we strongly advise you to consult a solicitor before drafting a new Will or updating an existing one. We are always happy to discuss your wishes and intentions but, regretfully, Free the Bears is unable to offer legal or financial advice (online resources are available). Don't forget to follow the legal requirements of your own country. If you have any questions, please email Our details (Australia): Free the Bears Ltd, PO Box 1393, Osborne Park DC, Perth, Western Australia, 6916. Tel: +61 (08) 9244 1096 Email: Charity number: A1004507U NOTE: We are registered in United Kingdom as Free the Bears UK (Charity Number :1135682). For supporters in the UK wishing to leave a bequest, please use this name and charity number. Thank you.


With increased rescues and limited protected forest for release, we’ll likely be providing our growing family of rescued bears with lifelong care, which can last up to 40 years. We desperately need help. PLEASE become a BEAR CARER monthly donor. For less than the cost of a coffee per week, you can become a BEAR CARER. Your donation will help provide food, vet care, enrichment & general care to hundreds of rescued bears. Please visit our website to become a BEAR CARER or contact our Perth office. Thank you.