Saving Moon Bears: Interview with Jill Robinson

Posted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on September 25, 2013

jaspers-storyALDF recently spoke with Jill Robinson about Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears a beautifully illustrated children’s book. Jill, founder of Animals Asia, has been recognized globally for her work with Animals Asia, which has established animal sanctuaries in China and Vietnam and rescued hundreds of moon bears from the “bear bile” industry. Jasper’s Story, co-authored with Mark Bekoff, is a book parents can share with children to discuss animal issues in a way appropriate for young people. And that is why the Animal Book Club is giving away free copies to three randomly chosen winners who leave a comment below!

What compelled you to write Jasper’s Story as a children’s story?

Jasper quickly won a special place in the Animals Asia team and in my heart after we learned that he had been confined in a “crush cage” for 15 years of his life. This beautiful bear, with his distinctive yellow eyebrows, had lain almost immobile, day in day out, year in year out, with his body flattened against bars.  With trauma and injuries so severe, here was a bear who gently took fruit from our fingers and waited patiently until it was his turn to finally be cut out of the cage.

From this point there was no going back and Jasper sailed through the surgical removal of the crude metal catheter embedded in to his abdomen, and repairs of broken teeth from frantic “bar biting”.  Finally released into a den, this beautiful, forgiving bear became the “peacemaker” of his group, as he welcomed new arrivals, and broke up the odd disagreement too.  I always say that Jasper and his friends rescue us every bit as much as we rescue them…

How can parents talk to their children about the brutal things adults do to animals?

I find children are eager to join projects which promote kindness and respect.  In fact, it is fundamentally important for parents to teach their children to be compassionate human beings—studies show that children who are cruel to animals can grow in to adults who are violent or even murderous to people.

I believe parents can engage their children by emphasizing that, like us, animals have but one life. They are as individual as we are and there is good science that shows they have emotions every bit as profound as our own. Children are quick to make the connection from an early age that animals feel pain and sadness, and it is our responsibility to help them understand that their actions can help—and save—individual animals and whole species.  Animals are good teachers—just ask our “Dr Dog” and “Professor Paws” canine therapists and educators!

What does Jasper teach us about forgiveness that we can model to fight animal cruelty?

If a bear like Jasper can gently lick honey from the fingers of the same species that caused him so many years of physical and psychological pain, then surely we can stop to think about the impacts our lives have on other species and change if they bring harm.  It’s as simple as not killing a spider in your house—because it is her life, her only life.

How is Jasper doing today?

Jasper is, to this day, a remarkable bear.  He is happy, healthy and very mischievous indeed. He even knows his own name and you can see his big ears prick up whenever he is called.   He loves to walk back in to the den for a treat of honey or peanut butter and still makes everyone laugh when he plays tag or rough and tumbles with his friends.  He especially likes to spend hours in the pool, and entertains visitors by blowing bubbles in the water, or doing gymnastics with a piece of log.  As Autumn approaches, Jasper, like the other bears, is slowing down and preparing for a winter of more sleep. As he stretches in his cosy hanging basket bed, and we stretch in our beds at home, I can’t help thinking of the poor bears left behind on the farms who can’t stretch, can’t move, until they’re free.

Jill’s final note:

Thank you for helping Jasper and friends and the bears still waiting—we are endlessly grateful for your help and kindness, and promise never to give up until the very last bear farm has closed!

More Information

Share Jasper’s Story

23 thoughts on “Saving Moon Bears: Interview with Jill Robinson

  1. Courtney says:

    I’m a big fan of Animals Asia and am in total agreement with Jill’s statements regarding the emotions and individual personalities of animals. I’m so glad that Jasper was rescued and is happily living his days at one of Animals Asia’s sanctuaries–and hopefully the bear bile industry will be shut down for good in the near future so that no bears will continue suffering the way Jasper once did.

    For anyone interested, there is an online fundraiser underway to raise money for Animals Asia. I’m a member of the team and am raffling a stained glass panel in return for donations on my page. Our team leader will be running a marathon in a bear costume to raise funds. You can find out more about it here:

    Thank you ALDF for posting this interview and for giving away free copies of the book!

  2. Louisa says:

    This is a wonderful thing. So many people are unaware of the cruel things humans do to animals, so this is just one more way to make others aware. Thank you for sharing this story. I can’t wait to have a copy of this book.

  3. Laura says:

    Kindness and tolerance are words that do not carry enough weight when it comes to improving the lonely and dependent lives of animals in our stewardship.

    This story at least gives us hope! The moon bears are just a part of a bigger picture; desensitised to animal suffering, increasingly our lives are lived out in sanitised environments.

    Children see the world with new eyes. With education, we can trust them to lead us a future where things wil be different and perhaps kinder to all living things.

  4. Kim Topf says:

    I am glad there are children’s books out there to educate them about animal abuse. I have read and donated money to Animal Asia. It is a great organization. The first time I read about them, it broke my heart. Then the organization sent a DVD to me to watch. It was hard to watch, but I am glad I did so I know what is going on over there.

    Thank you ALDF for all your hard work!

  5. Thomas Ponce says:

    Thank you so much for introducing me to this book! I have to get it for my animal rights club at school, I think it would be a perfect fit. I have just started putting together my sharing library and this would be a perfect addition. If I don’t get chosen I am definitely going to be buying it! Thank you again.

  6. Nancy says:

    Animals Asia is a wonderful sanctuary and I am glad they are sharing Jasper’s story. Jasper’s gentleness and forgiveness are important lessons for children to learn.

  7. Barry Irwin says:

    Of course I have not read the book since I just read the email introducing it. It does sound like it would be a great gift to give to a family with you children to introduce them to the cruelty perpetrated onto Moon Bears without overwhelming them.

    Like Thomas Ponce [hey, Thomas], if I am not a lucky one of three I intend to purchase at least one copy for myself to read and give away.


  8. I run an animal welfare PTA committee called Beast Relief at my daughter’s school, PS 107 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY. In our school, which is K-5th grade, we focus on instilling a love of animals and showing how we can help them with advocacy efforts. We have focused on the plight of rhinos, and have raised thousands of dollars for the International Rhino Foundation. Here is a great video we made and have showed in all the classrooms: We would love to teach the kids about how we can help those poor moon bears.

  9. Jessica P says:

    Thank you for shedding light on this book. I would definitely love to share it (and the plight of these amazing animals) with my children. My veg daughter is only 2 but already has a love of animals. My 5 year old son is old enough though to learn about why he is veg. Through visits to animal sanctuaries, participating in protests/walks for animal rights, dialogue, and of course, books like these, we are opening his young eyes and heart to the unfortunate plight of animals and what we can do. Sometimes eloquent writers and beautiful illustrations better explain what I sometimes have a hard time conveying to a younger, more innocent mind. It is a proud moment when I see the pride in his face though, as he announces that he taught his pre-k class (and now kindergarten class this year) about being veg and why. Looking forward to getting this book!

  10. This is a wonderful work! Thanks to all who made this book happen-the next generation is the best bet to change. A change for the betterment of ourselves and our first duty, responsibility given to mankind in the beginning, is to take care of all the animals. I must say-this is very important to “teach our children well”.
    Thanks Jill! Thanks to ALDF for all you DO!

    Donna (another animal lover from another mother)

  11. This sounds like a wonderful book! As someone, writing my own series and currently working in an elementary school I can fully attest to the openess of the children with which I interact to the emotional lives of other animals. I am lucky to be in a school that promotes the interconnectedness of all beings. I look forward to seeing this on the shelf of my own school’s library!

  12. Merrily says:

    I’m looking forward to reading this book!
    As an elementary teacher I talk to my students about
    being kind and respectful to all living beings.
    I have several books that I read to them that carry the message of having compassion for all kinds of animals.
    My students are also given hands on time to care for our classroom guinea pigs and love it when I bring my dog Dante to school.
    Each year during “Be Kind to Animals Week” I organize different activities for the students that range from having a speaker from an animal rescue group talk to them, selling treats for their pets (we donate the funds to the animal rescue group), to writing stories about their
    favorite animal/pet.
    My hope is that some of these children will carry on the message of compassion & respect for all beings.

  13. Natalie Penn says:

    Thanks for your fantastic work in reaching out to new people of all ages to teach them compassion for animals. I teach my children that all life is sacred and we share this planet with many other species. I also try to inspire them by telling them why I choose to be a vegetarian and use my wallet to vote for companies who do the right thing for animals and against companies who cause harm by testing on animals, contributing to deforestation of habitats or who harm animals in any way. Every thing we buy, do or say has an impact and each individual can make a difference.

  14. Gail says:

    I hope Jasper’s story raises awareness to us all and the upcoming generation about the cruel acts inflicted on the Moon Bears.

  15. Sandy says:

    Thanks for choosing this title for the ALDF book club. The story of the ‘moon bears’ needs to be shared to help build awareness of animal abuse. By exposing kids to age-appropriate materials, we can help them develop compassion towards other creatures. I intend to purchase this book to donate to my local children’s library.

  16. Faith says:

    Ugh – the bear bile industry – horrendous. I gave a class at a local Los Angeles elementary school on being kind to animals by using a slide show, pictures, and information provided to me by Best Friends Animal Society. We are Best Friends animal ambassadors and subscribe to the idea that “Kindess to animals makes the world a better place for all of us”. We also brought in a service dog to show the children how intelligent and helpful service animals can be. Can’t wait to read this book!

  17. Janet in Cambridge MA says:

    Jill Robinson is another goddess as far as I’m concerned. She, like Daphne Sheldrick, Jane Goodall, Birute Galdikas, and many others (mostly women!) who devote their lives to saving and rehabbing abused wild creatures, stands at the forefront of kindness and humanity for our fellow travellers on this earth.

  18. This absolutely wonderful book, beautifully illustrated, brings us the important story of Jasper a victim of bear bile farming. I recently added it to our public library’s collection and suggested it on one of our message boards. I was so happy to see other libraries purchase it as well for inclusion to their collections. Animals Asia and Jill Robinson do tremendous work rescuing, rehabilitating, caring for and providing forever homes for this beautiful animals.

  19. This absolutely wonderful book, beautifully illustrated, brings us the important story of Jasper a victim of bear bile farming. I recently added it to our public library’s collection and suggested it on one of our message boards. I was so happy to see other libraries purchase it as well for inclusion to their collections. Animals Asia and Jill Robinson do tremendous work rescuing, rehabilitating, caring for and providing forever homes for these beautiful animals. Thank you for highlighting this issue and bringing us the interview with Ms. Robinson.

  20. Sharon Greene says:

    I found Jasper’s tale very moving. Not only would I like my children to read this book, I would very much like to read it too.

  21. Deanne O'Donnell says:

    I share wonderful stories of animals I’ve known and what I do to make the world a better place for them. I try to make children see how they are the next ones to be in charge of change and kindness in the years ahead and that we are depending upon them to see the animals through merciful and compassionate eyes and actions. I try to talk to them about their experiences with animals and share with them that animals have feelings and emotions, that they hurt and know sorrow and pain, that they are more than just here for our pleasure but are here for their own life and purpose.

  22. This is incredibly wonderful. If I am lucky enough to get a copy I will certainly use it in our next humane education program.:-)

  23. Cynthia says:

    This is a truly wonderful cause. I support them with a monthly donation. Give what you can. I am not a rich person, but I feel happy knowing I can help the bears in some way.
    Jill is a hero.

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