Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears

Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on August 13, 2013

jaspers-storyIn recent months, ALDF’s Animal Book Club has considered animal thoughts and emotions in Virginia Morell’s Animal Wise and the capacity of animals to not only grieve but to truly love and mourn the loss of love in Barbara J. King’s How Animals Grieve. Bears are some of the most emotionally sensitive, and yet horribly tormented animals, especially when it comes to Moon Bears. This is hard enough for adults to grapple with, but how do we talk to our children about the suffering of animals? The answer to this question can be found in Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears by Jill Robinson and Mark Bekoff and the work done by Animals Asia, in a work that is a testament to the beauty of Jasper’s spirit and the healing power of forgiveness.

Jasper is a real Moon Bear (with the tell-tale pale yellow crescent moon shape on his chest), who was held in a tiny, crippling metal cage for 15 years while his bile was painfully extracted through the most excruciating methods imaginable for use in traditional Asian medicines. A full grown bear, Jasper was held in a cage so uncomfortable, it would be too small even for a dog. He was one of the lucky bears rescued by Animals Asia and brought to the Moon Bear Rescue Centre.

But he was terribly hurt. Jasper’s Story describes how rescued moon bears have terrible physical injuries from their miserable confinement, and display all the signs of extreme psychological agony. When author and Animals Asia founder Jill Robinson found Jasper he was nearly wasted away and unable to move. Surely, after suffering years of such shameful, relentless torture and cruelty, Jasper’s spirit would be broken, unrecoverable?


In a way that would melt anyone’s heart, Jasper’s Story describes Jasper’s recovery; his first taste of freedom, his first experience of love, the first time he played. Jasper was so hurt he had to be taught how to smell and search for food, to stretch his muscles, to engage in normal animal behavior. In time, caregivers noticed a change come into Jasper’s eyes as they watched him roam safely in his sanctuary. He splashed in his pool, foraged in the grass, played in trees, and wrestled with his new bear companions. And most of all, he reached out in concern to other bears by his side. Despite how badly he had been hurt, forgiveness and compassion stayed in his heart. Now, Jasper welcomes each new bear who arrives at the sanctuary and becomes their friend.

“With his kind and gentle spirit he has become a symbol for bears and humans alike, reminding us all that love brings forgiveness and that, in return, forgiveness brings love.”

Jasper’s Story is a beautifully illustrated (Gijsbert Van Frankenhuyzen) children’s book from Sleeping Bear Press. Co-author Jill Robinson founded Animals Asia in 1998, which has established animal sanctuaries in China and Vietnam and helped hundreds of bears. She has been recognized globally for her work at the highest levels. Mark Bekoff is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Colorado and has received the Exemplar Award from the Animal Behavior Society. Together, they have put together Jasper’s Story, a book adults can enjoy and a perfect tool for animal advocates to engage children about serious, dark issues of animal cruelty in a way appropriate for young people.

And that is why the Animal Book Club is giving away free copies of this gorgeous book to three randomly chosen winners who leave a comment below! Stay tuned this month for an interview with Jill Robinson!

How do you reach out to young people about animal cruelty?

35 thoughts on “Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears

  1. Dawn O'Neill says:

    Sometimes I just don’t know what to say to my kids about animal cruelty. I tell them that there are mostly good people in the world, but some are mean & dangerous. The best thing I can do & have done, is to teach them kindness & compassion, which I see in them everyday in their intetactions with our 4 dogs & 3 cats.

  2. Sandra Padilla says:

    Tell ppl that animals feel pain and suffering like ppl do.

  3. Beverley Santiago says:

    What an incredibly moving story. I am so happy to see wonderful organizations such as Animals Asia rehabilitating magnificent animals like Jasper. The work they, and others like them, do is simply amazing. And I am delighted to hear that Jasper’s heart-wrenching story has been turned into a children’s book; we need to teach the next generation how to care for all the precious life on this planet.

  4. Wendy says:

    My eyes are welling up reading about Jasper. Thank goodness he is free. It is quite amazing that his spirit was not broken – I think mine might have been. It is hard for most of us to imagine having to learn how to stretch. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful story. The Bear Bile ‘farms’ need to become extinct.

  5. Casandra says:

    Did he end up in the same sanctuary as the other bear , Ben ?

    1. ALDF says:

      Ben is at PAWS in California, very far away from Jasper but an equally reputable sanctuary.

  6. Ann Coe says:

    What a wonderful way to educate not only children but adults who may read the book. Too bad you can’t drop a pallet of these books amongst the ill informed people who continue to buy the bile which keeps this dreadful market going. More like Jasper need to experience the freedom of grass and soil under their feet. Well done to the authors and Animals Asia!

  7. Lily Kost says:

    I had never heard of bear bile farms before, this is just horrible. Thank goodness for people like Jill Robinson who are out there saving these poor animals and also spreading the word about these atrocious farms.

  8. Kim Gates says:

    I have been donating to Jill’s incredible work for years. She truly is a moon bear angel. I hope that one day she’ll write about her ‘adventures’ in saving these precious fur-kids. It’s far too easy for people to think they can’t make this kind of impact. Jill is proof they’re wrong and her story needs to be told. Maybe Mark can help with that too . . .

  9. Kathy Kwieran says:

    I teach my kids and grandchildren how animals are no different than we are. They feel happy, hungry, pain and bleed just like we do. Once they see that they have compassion and want to help them. Books are a great way to show them that. I would love to have a copy to share with the kids in my life.

  10. Ofri Eliaz says:

    This story touched my heart deeply.This poor bear! How people can behave in such horrible way to animals? I am so glad he is in a better place now. God bless his rescuer!

  11. emma robespierre says:

    Inspiring and moving story. Jasper suffered unknown depths. I am so grateful and happy that he has the chance to recover his bearhood and his bearness in a safe and loving environment. I wish that all bears could know love and freedom. Sounds like a beautiful book. Thank you. x

  12. Bryan says:

    Across the spectrum of animal cruelty, without a doubt the bear bile industry ranks amongst the cruelest of offenders. Nice to hear of happy endings every now and then!

  13. What would I tell a child? that animals are our brothers, sisters, loved ones, and teachers.

  14. emma robespierre says:

    I choose to talk about how to love and respect animals and nature. Teach others how to respond to and care for animals and wildlife. If one simply lives as though a loving respect for all animals is the best way to live one’s life then when the aberrant and antisocial behaviors of cruelty and abuse present themselves, children and adults will understand that it is a rip in the social fabric between animals and humans and they can reason it out from their empirical attachments along the way. If we are taught from our genesis in this world to love one another and include the animals in our global family and personal journey, we will always know the true path and recognize the jagged turns and forks that lead to pain and suffering for everyone in the Animal Kingdom.

  15. denise nieva says:

    I believe for a person to truly grasp what cruelty is, you must start teaching children when they are as young as months old. At this young age i feel the best way to start is through facial expression along with words. Making them understand that human pain and animal pain are exactly the same! Attitude is everything in making them understand and grasp what being sensitive and caring is truly all about. They will carry it through there adult life and be better,loving human beings!

  16. Darlene says:

    Thank you so much for highlighting this wonderful and very important book that raises awareness to the horrific bear bile farms. Animals Asia does tremendous work in the rescue and rehabilitation of these bears. Making books like this available in public libraries is a great medium to reach young people about animal cruelty. Working in a library, I try my best to add books like this to our collection. I believe it’s important to bring the message of respect and compassion for animals to children.

  17. Charolette Constable says:

    I have always admired the Indians (from stories I have read) regarding the animal kingdom. They killed for food and never wasted anything. They made their clothing, etc. from the hides. They never killed or maimed for the fun of it. It is always hard for me to read stories of this nature because I get emotional. I am so glad that the bear was rescued and given a chance at a normal life. Animals are very sensitive and can feel pain just as we can and it is so sad at the number of people who have no regard for their well being.

  18. Donna says:

    Heart wrenching. I didn’t even know about bear bile farms. So many cases of animal cruelties that it drags humankind down, and we lose hope… cheers for this kindness in action. I applaud the work of moon bear angels. May there come a day when cruelty is part of a barbaric past.

  19. Pat Schmidt says:

    Of course animals feel….how stupid are these people to believe otherwise?
    I would love a copy of this book to leave in the waiting room of my job.

  20. Paula Jaruse says:

    I am a veterinary technician. I have been in this field since 1969. I have seen a lot of good and a lot of bad happen with animals. My children grew up knowing the difference with explanations that were true and accurate for their age. Each year they understood more. Now my grandson is learning the same way. He has even gone to work with me many times. This is the best way to teach compassion for my family.

  21. Paula says:

    This story will certainly make a valuable impression on young people. So many adults and young people alike are unaware of atrocities like the bear bile industry.

  22. Elizabeth says:

    This bear Jasper has freedom, thank God. There need’s to be more protection for bear’s to not have to go through the cruelty of being imprisoned in cage’s and having bile extracted from them, or anything else. I will pray for the beautiful bear’s to get the freedom, they so deserve.
    They are God’s creature’s, the same way, that we are, and deserve to be treated with the same respect and dignity as human being’s!

  23. Amanda Leahy says:

    Organizations such as ALDF, Animals Asia, and countless animal welfare institutions around the world are working tirelessly to repair and prevent the damage that is being done. Social media has heightened people’s awareness, creating conscience and cultivating not only a desire, but also a commitment, to preserve and protect, our greatest legacy, for future generations. Education is the key, the knowledge we impart to our children will have the greatest impact on this global problem. Our hope for peace and respect for all creatures on this planet is fueled by this.

  24. I would like to pay for a copy of this book because of all those who have done such wonderful work so please no free book to me.But just wanted to say how inspiring your work is and what a tale of the wonderful nature of animals.I think the only way to reach out to young people is to lead by example which is what you are doing, and to utilise the power of the internet to reach them. I heard that some videos were screened in a New York Street of what goes on in a slaughter house , shock tactics but most people dont even realise whats going on, so making it public is the first step…I wish you all the best with your future work and you have my respect for the work you are doing

  25. Anni Hand says:

    I would love to read this book to my grandson, Sid and save it for when my granddaughter, Evie is old enough to be interested. I try to inform them in a gentle way about the cruelty in this world and hope that they will grow up with compassion in their hearts.This story is inspiring and I hope it will go a long way to raising awareness. Well done.

  26. wendelyn anderson says:

    Jasper’s story is an inspiration to all of us. I love him.

  27. Andrea says:

    This is amazing. We need to teach children how to be kind and how to help animals in need. We can’t bring them up in ignorance and expect them to learn empathy for the creatures around them without first teaching them about these injustices.

  28. laureen velasco says:

    Animals are concrete examples and models of pure love and an immeasurable capacity to forgive. This is why humans, who are sensitive enough to feel the sufferings of animals, are moved in a way that nothing else on earth can. To see them happy in their natural habitat opens the door of heaven for anyone capable of seeing them in their own terms. It just makes us inexplicably and profoundly happy to see them free and living the natural life they should have.

  29. Margaret Graczyk says:

    Having raised three morally responsible, pet owning children, it is now my joy to witness them teaching my grandchildren the responsibilities of being loving “siblings” to their pets. I see true love and empathy in the “Little Ones” and it warms my heart to know that I have had a part in their well balanced upbringing.

  30. Wendy says:

    This evil sick pratice needs to stop

  31. Ziva Eliezer says:

    I’m really excited to read about Jill Robinson
    and her new book about the moon bear that she rescued after he had spent 15 unimaginably
    horrible years in a small cage while his bile was being painfully removed. Before relocating to the U.S., I lived in Israel for many years
    and became aware of “Animals Asia” and the
    wonderful work of Jill Robinson. The suffering animals of the world need more people like her to teach cruel and ignorant
    people how to treat animals with compassion.

  32. Kelly says:

    What a moving story! I remember seeing the video of the mama and baby bear used for bile extraction when it was circulating the internet a few years ago, and I recall just how devastated I was by it. This book sounds perfect for sharing with my daughter, when she is old enough to begin to grasp just how cruel we humans can be. It sounds like it also will help empower her as a force for change. Thanks for sharing!

  33. Courtney says:

    Thank you ALDF for promoting this book and Animals Asia (which is my favorite charitable organization). The work that Animals Asia does for bears like Jasper is truly remarkable. Hopefully the horrible bear bile industry will be shut down for good one day. I’m looking forward to the interview with Jill Robinson later this month!

  34. Tom Krepitch says:

    I was quite surprised to learn that a children’s book had been based on such a horrendous practice and surprised again to see that my local library had a copy of it, but the book was delicately done and is hopefully becoming very popular.

    The authors have done a wonderful job of balancing the inspiring story of Jasper with just enough of his experience prior to reaching his sanctuary that children will almost certainly want to know more. It will be up to their parents to decide how much they can handle, and I believe that is a good thing.

    I’m also certain that this book will serve as the first introduction to the horror that is bear bile farming to many of the parents themselves. This thought is especially intriguing to me. I don’t know if this was the intention, but the idea of introducing adults to serious animal issues via children’s books is excellent. Perhaps this will be only one of many similar books that can serve that purpose.

    I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the beautiful artwork in the book. Mr van Frankenhuyzen’s paintings are the perfect complement to the story told by Ms Robinson and Mr Bekoff and I certainly hope that their combined efforts will benefit the moon bears who are currently suffering and hopefully eventually eliminate the entire industry.

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