Objectives & Achievements

Our Vision

A world where bears are valued as an integral part of the natural environment and are no longer exploited or abused

Our Mission

To protect, preserve and enrich the lives of bears throughout the world

Strategic Aims

  1. Create and support world-class bear sanctuaries; government owned, managed to the highest level of welfare and striving towards long-term sustainability
  2. Develop alternative sustainable livelihood programmes for the community to prevent impoverished families from exploiting bears for profit
  3. Strengthen wildlife law enforcement efforts through advocacy and training
  4. Protect wild bear populations through community-led efforts and increased understanding of wild bear populations
  5. Build the capacity of local partners and staff including government authorities, veterinarians, researchers, school-teachers, and animal care staff



    • Free the Bears Founder, Dr Mary Hutton, retires from Free the Bears after 30 years of helping bears
    • Pre-Release facilities completed at our Luang Prabang Wildlife Sanctuary in Laos and the Cambodia Bear Sanctuary, part of an initiative to release suitable bear candidates to protected forest in the future
    • Last caged bear in Long An Province, Vietnam, rescued after 22 years on a bile farm


    • Bear House 4 opens at the Cat Tien Bear Sanctuary in Vietnam, allowing for more rescues of bears stranded in bile farms for 16+ years
    • Bear House 1A, specially designed for geriatric bears with disabilities and mobility issues, opens at out Cat Tien Bear Sanctuary
    • Bear House 7 opens at the Luang Prabang Wildlife Sanctuary, providing space for many growing rescued moon bear cubs
    • Additional facilities for other endangered species rescued from the illegal wildlife trade open at our Luang Prabang Wildlife Sanctuary
    • Last caged bear in Binh Phuoc Province, Vietnam, rescued


    • Bear Houses 5 & 6 open at the Luang Prabang Wildlife Sanctuary, providing space for rapidly growing rescued moon bear cubs
    • Another 21 bears rescued during calendar year 2021


    • Free the Bears founder Dr Mary Hutton OAM awarded Medal of the Order of Australia for her services to conservation & the environment 
    • BBC releases docuseries "Bears About the House", filmed throughout 2019 at Free the Bears Luang Prabang Wildlife Sanctuary, garnering millions of viewers
    • Second major release of rehabilitated wildlife into protected forest in Laos
    • Four more bears rescued from bile farms in Vietnam, all caged for over 18 years, making more provinces in Vietnam bear bile farm free 


    • Wildlife Hospitals open in both Luang Prabang Wildlife Sanctuary, Laos and Cat Tien Bear Sanctuary, Vietnam
    • Luang Prabang Wildlife Sanctuary opens third & fourth bear houses
    • Can Tien Bear Sanctuary opens third bear house
    • Record year of bear rescues in Laos (18), first major release of rehabilitated wildlife to protected forest in Laos
    • Mary Hutton is a finalist for Senior Australian of the Year (WA)


    • CEO Matt Hunt is awarded San Diego Zoo Global's 2018 Conservation Medal
    • World's largest ever live red panda confiscation in Laos
    • Luang Prabang Wildlife Sanctuary opens Bear House 2
    • Luang Prabang Wildlife Sanctuary opens new enclosures for various species & a Small Carnivore Conservation Centre including a red panda 'palace'
    • Cat Tien Bear Sanctuary in Vietnam opens Bear House 2 with giant forest enclosures for rescued sun bears
    • Free the Bears founder Mary Hutton turns 80 
    • Record year of bear rescues in Laos (13)


    • Luang Prabang Wildlife Sanctuary opens at Nong Tok, welcomes first group of rescued bears
    • New Vietnam sanctuary at Cat Tien National Park welcomes first group of rescued bears
    • World’s first International Symposium for Sun bear conservation and management held in Malaysia, co-hosted by Free the Bears
    • 18 bear rescues across 3 countries
    • Mary Hutton receives Honorary Doctorate from the University of the Sunshine Coast


    • Cambodian Wildlife Hospital upgraded, computerised radiography, blood biochemistry analysis and laparoscopy added
    • Villager research projects commence and MSc scholarship awarded in Cambodia
    • Partnership with Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in Vientiane results in raids of three markets trading in wildlife products
    • Plan to phase out bear bile farming by 2020 presented to Laos government
    • Construction of new sanctuary in Cat Tien National Park commences


    • Free the Bears hosts the 7th annual Wild Animal Rescue Network conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
    • Bear House 8 opens in Cambodia - raising the bar once again for standards of care for rescued bears
    • Mobile education unit - B.E.A.R mobile - is launched in Laos
    • Nationwide bear surveys launched in Vietnam to assess the status of wild bear populations, plans drawn up for a new $500,000 sanctuary at Cat Tien National Park
    • Mary Hutton wins prestigious "Jeanne Marchig Award for Animal Welfare" plus "Pride of Australia" medals for Environment and People's Choice categories


    • The Laos Forest & Wildlife Discovery Trail at Tat Kuang Si is developed, incorporating distinct visitor zones for 200,000+ annual visitors
    • Kong the Sun bear has his vision restored following groundbreaking ophthalmic surgery
    • Cambodia highlighted as leading the way amongst 16 Asian nations in terms of bear rescue
    • Blue the Sun bear cub arrives at our Cambodian Bear Sanctuary unable to walk due to spinal injuries, his story subsequently goes viral and is seen by almost 1million people!


    • The world's first neurosurgery on a bear takes place at Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre to relieve ChamPa of her hydrocephalic condition
    • Free the Bears celebrates milestone anniversaries in Laos and Cambodia with the opening of the Bear Discovery Trail
    • World-class Cub Nursery and Quarantine Area, utilising state-of-the-art green technologies, opens at our Cambodian Bear Sanctuary
    • Free the Bears conducts a training course at Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre for officials from wildlife departments of Lao PDR Govt to effectively perform inspections of bile extraction facilities with an aim to ending the bile trade in Laos
    • 2nd scholarship given to Laos MSc student in investigate efficiencies of different forest patrol methods in Nam Kan NPA


    • Bear House 3 opens in Laos - complete with veterinary theatre and additional forest enclosures
    • Emergency snare patrols launched in Nam Kan National Protected Area, Laos, following the discovery of intensive hunting targetting wild bears
    • Bear House 7 opens in Cambodia - including a dedicated classroom area "The Bear Den"
    • Chuon Vuthy, our Cambodia Programme Manager, wins prestigious "Future for Nature Award"


    • Luang Prabang bear bile farm is ordered closed - striking the first major blow against bear bile farming in Laos
    • 1st Scholarship given to Lao MSc student to investigate human-bear conflict mitigation in Nam Et Phou Louey NPA, Laos, and two snared bears are rescued and re-released
    • "Paws for Thought" education campaign launched in Thailand to increase environmental awareness in communities surrounding Khao Yai National Park


    • World first laparoscopic (keyhole) surgeries to removed damaged gallbladders from former bile farm bears take place at the Mekong Delta Bear Sanctuary
    • Wildlife Law Enforcement meeting sponsored in Laos as part of ASEAN-WEN initiative
    • Nationwide mapping of wild bear populations begins in Laos, while support is given for PhD research into Sun bear populations in Sumatra


    • “Raju” the last of India’s dancing bears is handed over, bringing the dancing bear trade to an end
    • Extension completed at Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre in Laos, incorporating a second Bear House and trebling the forest area available for bears.
    • Launched nationwide campaign against illegal wildlife trade as part of the Lao Illegal Wildlife Trade working group.
    • First group of nine bears arrive at the Mekong Delta Bear Sanctuary in Vietnam


    • Bear Discovery Centre opened in Cambodia as numbers of bears at Phnom Tamao climbs above 100 for the first time
    • Bear House 5 opens in Cambodia - including our first dedicated nursery area to care for growing numbers of orphaned bear cubs
    • 500th Dancing bear rescued in India - four sanctuaries now being supported across India (Agra, Bangalore, Bhopal and West Bengal)
    • Cat Tien Bear Sanctuary opens as Vietnam's biggest semi-natural area for rescued bears in Vietnam
    • Ground is broken on the Mekong Delta Bear Sanctuary in Vietnam, increasing the capacity for housing bears rescued from the bile trade


    • Bear Sign Survey training course held in Cambodia for protected area rangers and scientists
    • Donated funds to Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand to build further sanctuaries for rescued Sun bears and Moon bears
    • Donated funds to Gabriella Fredriksson to complete Sun Bear Education Center in East Kalimantan, Indonesia


    • Free the Bears opens the Cambodian Wildlife Hospital at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre in Cambodia
    • Donated funds to Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand to build a new sanctuary for rescued Sun bears and Moon bears


    • First eco tours of Cambodia and Laos conducted in association with World Expeditions
    • Donated funds to Gabriella Fredericksson to support the establishment of the Sun Bear Education & Conservation Center in East Kalimantan, Indonesia
    • 100th ‘Dancing Bear’ rescued from the streets of India


    • Donated funds to Wildlife Alliance’s Kouprey Express environmental education programme in Cambodia
    • Donated funds to the Karuna Society in India to build an enclosure for Barney bear in Puttaparthi


    • Began building a sanctuary at Tat Kuang Si park in Luang Prabang, Laos, for rescued Moon bears
    • Provided funding for Bang Per Wildlife Sanctuary rangers and equipment in Cambodia


    • Joined in a partnership with Wildlife SOS (India) and International Animal Rescue (UK) to fund the Agra Bear Rescue Facility (ABRF) in India.
    • Welcomed the first 25 rescued dancing bears to the Agra Bear Rescue Facility on Christmas Day


    • Donated funds to Professor Pazhetnov for his rescued Russian bear cub programme


    • Extended facilities for adult male Sun bears at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre in Cambodia


    • Built a sanctuary for bears in the Lopburi Zoo, Thailand
    • Completed the bear cub playpen at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre in Cambodia
    • Built a 6000m2 sanctuary for Moon bears at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre in Cambodia


    • Three Sun bears relocated from Cambodia to Perth Zoo, Australia
    • Finalist in the National Geographic ‘Blue Planet Heroes’ competition
    • Donated funds to the Eakehei Project to survey numbers of the Spectacled bear in Ecuador


    • Three Sun bears relocated from Cambodia to Taronga Park Zoo, Sydney, Australia
    • Established the first Sun bear and Moon bear sanctuary in the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre in Cambodia
    • Donated funds to WSPA to complete their sanctuary for Sun bears at Banglamung Rescue Centre, Thailand


    • Donated funds to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to assist in the construction of the Pan Yu sanctuary for rescued bile farm bears in China


    • Free the Bears Fund Inc. founded by Mary Hutton


    • Mary Hutton begins collecting signatures calling for an end to bear bile farming in China