Saving Moon Bears: Interview with Jill RobinsonPosted by Jennifer Molidor, ALDF's Staff Writer on September 25, 2013
ALDF 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!