Bear N e c e s s i t i e s
Mary Hutton pioneers a project that not only saves ill-treated bears but also educates local communities about wildlife conservation
lavery is never good,
Mary Hutton has devoted her life to saving the Asiatic black bears
but topped off with torture it defies any form of humane
description. In 1993, Mary Hutton sat watching television in her suburban home in Perth, Australia, and it changed her life forever. The shocking video footage showed Asiatic black bears being incapacitated, kept in tiny cages while their bile was periodically extracted to make medicine in several parts of Asia. Revolted and outraged by the way these bears were handled, Hutton decided to stand up and take action; and she has not looked back since. The next day she was holding a petition at the entrance of a shopping mall and soon found many to share her passion for the cause. Two years later, in 1995, Free the Bears Fund was officially formed as a non-profit
inquisitive creatures, who try to prise open bags, or are eager
organisation. From informative film nights and merchandise
to share a cuddle.
to petitions filed at the Chinese Embassy, word spread and gathered more supporters. The organisation started
shy female without paws still happily resides here. The
receiving requests from different parts of Asia where people
sanctuary’s kitchen not only varies the food the bears get,
were disturbed at the treatment meted out to the species.
but places it in different areas to stimulate their motor
The more Hutton dug the more bears she found to help.
skills and replicate what they would do in the wild, since
One such request led to the development of the
many of them have weakened muscles from a lifetime of
Cambodian Bear Sanctuary, just 40 kilometres from Phnom
imprisonment. Food is hung up in trees, suspended off the
Penh. The bears at the sanctuary come from a variety of
ground with holes, or carefully hidden under tree trunks
backgrounds – some poached, others bruised and battered
to encourage the bears to explore and investigate their
by traders who smuggle them abroad or sell them to
surroundings on their own.
restaurants specialising in bear paw soup. Many suffering
Text by: Maria Visconti
One of the first few rescued bears at the sanctuary, a
Hutton is aware that prevention is far better than cure,
from gruesome injuries are first treated at the World
and as a result a Mobile Education Unit tours Cambodian
Expeditions Wildlife Hospital with veterinary equipment
rural communities educating school children in wildlife
donated by late environmentalist Steve Irwin’s Wildlife
preservation. Her project has now expanded to many
Warriors. The sanctuary provides open spaces, fresh food,
countries including India, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos,
water and toys to help the bears’ recovery and rehabilitation.
saving more than 700 bears to date.
Visitors are allowed in the open-air areas to play with the To help save the bears or visit one of their projects, log on to www.freethebears.org.au
Mary Hutton pioneers a project that not only saves ill-treated bears but also educates local communities about wildlife conservation 41 Mary...