Rays of Hope…


The last part of of my Asian trip was spent in Vietnam with The Animals Asia teams on the ground. It’s been a Hell of a trip and an experience I’ll never forget.  Emotional to say the least.

The first few days were truly “dark”.  I visited domestic bear bile farms and saw first hand, beautiful Moon bears caged up on people’s property.  I know this is hard, and some of you are probably saying right now “I can’t look at this” but please read on. The more people are aware of these atrocities, and spread the word, the more chance there is of local and international pressure being exerted on governments to do something about it.  Also, by reading on you will see the ray of hope that amazing people, like Jill Robinson and her Animals Asia team,  are bringing for the future of these innocent animals. Be brave for the animals who have no choice, or voice.

The Dark Side

It felt like I was going back in time and travelling trough torture chambers of bygone years and I am not being dramatic here.  The groans of the bears, as we walked past was haunting. Many were bald from constantly rubbing their heads against the bars, driven to distraction being in a space barely big enough to move , year in and year out in temperatures of over 40 degrees and on top of this wearing a fur coat. Oh, and guess what, they starve their bears so that they produce more bile, and, they are not only kept for their bile but also for their paws (US$500 per paw) Aaaagggghhhh 😡😡😡

How dare we do this to animals…… how dare we 😪😪😪😪😪 Disgusting, Extremely upsetting, Cruel, Exploitative, in-humane, Wrong……. need I go on😳😡😡😡😞😞😪😪😪😡😡😡😳😳😳

These are not photos from archives, these are my personal pics, hot off the press. This disgusting business is happening right now.

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These cages are larger than the ones they used to be in. When the law changed recently, the government made the farmers move their bears into larger cages… kind hey?

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Other issues… Hanoi Zoo and Traditional Medicine Street

In addition to the bile farms, I also visited Hanoi zoo and one of the  Traditional Medicine Streets. On the street I was very easily able to source pangolin scales and bear bile, (both illegal) and it took 5 minutes for a local dealer to arrive with the goods. I said I would think about it and she gave me her business card and told me to contact her if I needed these items or indeed anything else…

The zoo was pitiful and it broke my heart to see 4 Asian elephants in a tiny enclosure but thanks to Animals Asia, who are working with the zoo to improve conditions for the animals, AA sponsored an electric fence and the previously chained Elephants are now at least able to move around.

In think its time I moved on to the bright side…

The Bright Side

Animals Asia have been working closely with the Vietnamese Government and they have recently agreed to phase out the Bear Bile industry over the next three years. Existing bear owners are allowed to keep their bears (like the ones I saw) and legally, are not allowed to farm them for bile. But needless to say this does still go on as its so difficult to police and is always open to corruption. Under some circumstances the bears can be rescued / confiscated and Animals Asia are constantly looking for ways to do this and are succeeding.  This will be a long hard road ahead but it does mean that more and more of these beautiful bears will need to be housed in the future and to maximise these opportunities, Animals Asia  will need to expand their existing sanctuary and if possible build more sanctuaries.

Animals Asia also work with local schools and communities educating the young, and not so young, on animals welfare issues and alternative remedies to bear bile.

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The Best Sanctuary ever!

Animals Asia’s existing Bear Sanctuary is situated within Tam Dao national park which is 90 mins north of Hanoi.  It’s a tropical  paradise, lush vegetation, birds, insects and a river runs right through the middle, its…… Beautiful 👍😀

There are currently 148 rescued bears here and remember,  they were previously in the exact same situation as those poor bears I visited at the bear farm a few days ago…… this must be heaven to them. There are still an estimated 1000 bears still in need of rescue 😞😞😪😪

This is the best way for humans to say sorry to these Bears ……. the best animal sanctuary I have ever seen. I’m thinking of buying a bear suit and trying to get accepted here as a resident. Only the best care and respect here for the Bears.

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We, OAT, are sponsoring a new enclosure soon to be built here. A beautiful location right next to the river. Work is due to begin in a months time and should take 6 months to complete. Many more enclosures will be needed though…

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What a beautiful way to finish an emotional trip to Asia.

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I will never give up trying to help these poor bears, still being farmed for their bile.😞😞

I am back home in the UK now, and looking forward to seeing some of you at our fund raising event, in aid of Animals Asia, this weekend.  Fingers crossed for good weather, but I must say I am enjoying the coolness right now!



Dr Dave & Delegate Dave

My Last few days in China before heading off to Vietnam have been very interesting indeed…

Chengdu Sanctuary

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I was incredibly privileged to be able to participate in one of the health checks here at the sanctuary. They are completed  every two years on each bear in Animals Asia’s care.

This particular bear Teddy, shown in the photo below, needed her claws clipping (which I was allowed to do), a canine tooth extracted and a hernia also needed to be removed. The hernia had developed in the area where the catheter had been inserted to remove bile, in her previous life on a bear bile farm.


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Sadly my next doctor experience was witnessing another bear called Bebe, being euthanised.  After years of receiving very effective pain relief, sadly the time had come when the quality of life was just no longer acceptable. These bears have incredible arthritic problems from being kept in bear bile cages for so many years.


But lets not forget, that thanks to Animals Asia, the last half of Bebe’s life was filled with love and care in the freedom of a Beautiful sanctuary.

The next picture is of a bear that lived in the enclosure next to Bebe who came to the fence when we walked past him after paying our respects to Bebe. I am positive he sensed our sorrow and had come to cheer us up. We have so much to learn from animals….we are so disconnected from our instincts.

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China Dog Ownership Management Symposium, city of Xi’an.

Having said regretful goodbyes to the Chengdu Sanctuary I flew with Jill Robinson to Xi’an where Animals Asia hosted the 7th China Dog Ownership Management Conference.

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Held every two years, Animals Asia‘s Dog Ownership Management conferences bring Government and NGO’s together from provinces and cities across China to discuss issues concerning the management of stray and owned dogs.

As the largest such symposium of its kind in China, the delegates are brought together to discuss practical and humane forms of dog ownership management, including the updating of humane policies and regulations, veterinary intervention, disease control, public education, NGO collaboration, and the use of publicity, media help and mobile applications to facilitate this work.

Since 2009, over 250 government representatives of dog ownership management departments in 46 cities across China have taken part in these meetings, together with the relevant NGO’s.

At the end of the day…

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Sorry, I could resist including this picture of a sign that was placed on my bed in the hotel.

It was really weird seeing people smoking in the hotel today. I believe they tried to ban smoking in public buildings here but there  was a massive public out cry against it……..😳😳😳

Next stop – Vietnam!






Professor Paws

Another amazing Animals Asia project…

Sadly, the majority of people in China don’t have dogs as pets and many consider them as vermin or dangerous street animals. Most children here are scared of them and don’t understand how to read their body language or how to approach and greet a strange dog safely.

A few days ago I visited the ‘Professor Paws’ project which involves taking dogs to schools to introduce them to children. It is similar to the Dr Dog project in that the objective is to encourage mutual respect and appreciation between humans and animals. All dogs Animals Asia work with go through a rigorous selection process before being allowed to participate in their programmes, and Professor Paws is no exception.

The children were very excited when we arrived with the dogs and very quickly came to terms with the visit and really enjoyed the interaction.

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The children put on a dance for us and we were accepted and treated like celebrities…….. Well Jill is a celebrity here anyway, and rightly so !  They sang  “we love Jill” – “we love Animals Asia”……. we were in tears throughout the show…….. Beautiful and touching 😂😂😅😅😅👍😀👍😀

After the welcome ceremony, the children were invited to sit on the floor and be introduced to a dog. They were fascinated and so happy to touch and interact with them.


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Master Chef

Local press and government officials were present on the day and towards the end of the event a couple of surprises came our way 😳😳😳…… A local chef was invited to the school and Jill and I were asked to take part (on stage) in a sticky rice pudding making competition. This involved wrapping sticky rice and a piece of fruit in bamboo leaves and then tying the parcel up with string ready for steaming.

I was the BEST of course he he😀👍😀

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Moon Bears in China

As many of you know I am now in China familiarising myself with the work of Animals Asia, (AA)  a non government organisation who work tirelessly to reduce animal cruelty and exploitation in Asia.

This is rather a long blog, but please bear with me – excuse the pun…!

AA have many projects, one of which I spoke about in my last Blog, Dr Dog, and another I will tell you about in my next Blog, Professor Paws, both of which aim to improve relationships between humans and animals and encourage mutual respect.

AA also work to improve the wellbeing of animals in captivity (zoos, circuses etc) with the ultimate aim to help bring an end to the captive animal industry. I have visited horrendous zoos, circuses and waterparks, and seen more exotic animals in one week in the cities of China than I have seen elsewhere in my entire life.  This includes every iconic African animal you can think of plus arctic foxes, panda bears, dolphins and sharks to name but a few, and all in horrific captive environments, purely for human entertainment and greed.

However, AA’s core activity is the plight of the Moon Bears, who for centuries have been farmed for their bile for “medicinal” purposes. They are kept in tiny cages and bile is extracted from their gall bladders daily, through open catheters, with no anaesthetic. They can barely move in these small cages. I will say no more, take a look at pictures of the exhibits for yourself:

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Animals Asia have been operating for 18 years under their founder Jill Robinson, and they will keep going until the cruelty ends. They work collaboratively with the governments and people of both China and Vietnam.

So far they have successfully rescued over 300 bears from Bear Bile farms and in once case managed to convince a bile farmer to convert their farm into a sanctuary. This is located in Nanning, China.  Ex bile farmers, now carers, look after the bears here, together with Animals Asia vets and staff. This is not ideal for the bears as its a functional space with concrete enclosures, but at least they are no longer in pain and are being lovingly cared for.

The plan is to eventually move all of these bears to  Animal Asia’s purpose built sanctuary in Chengdu where I have spent the last few days. It is paradise in comparison.076 copy


Here is Nicola Jayne, named after my niece, Nicola Olsen, who is currently in Nanning.  She is hopeful of moving to Chengdu one day, where she will feel grass under her feet for the first time in her life.






Here are some photos of the lucky bears who are already living at Animal Asia’s Sanctuary in Chengdu.

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There are currently 126 rescued bears living in the Chengdu sanctuary and once funds have been raised to extend this facility, and the necessary legalities have been attended to, the remaining 126 Nanning bears will move to Chengdu as well.

I suspect it will be a while before this happens though, as in excess of $750,000 will need to be raised to achieve this.  I have no doubt however, that Jill and her team will make it happen one day – with a little help from her friends !

Health Checks

At the Chengdu sanctuary the bears need 2 yearly health checks to ensure their wellbeing. Below is a photo of one of the very trusting bears who after positive reinforcement training, now voluntarily offers his arm for blood tests. This is really good news as it negates the need for constant sedation.

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This may seem a bit morbid, but to be honest it was strangely uplifting in a way. These are the graves of 160 bears I visited with Jill yesterday. They have all been buried by Animals Asia over the past 16 years and are bears who were given the dignity they deserve.

There have been storms here this last week and when we arrived there was a lot of debris covering the graves and headstones. I decide to spend the afternoon here by myself clearing up . It was so peaceful. I just wanted it to look nice for them.

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I am off to Vietnam in a few days time, to see more of Animals Asia’s work there. I will keep you posted.


Dr. Dog

So today I visited an Animal Asia project in Hong Kong called Dr Dog.

This project involves taking dogs to old age homes, hospitals – children’s wards and institutions where people are experiencing difficulties of all sorts . The dogs bring such joy to these people as simply patting a dog can help relieve so many symptoms (animal therapy) and some respond to animals (dogs) much better than they do to humans as they feel they aren’t being judged.

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I saw it first hand today when I was invited to be part with the Dr Dog team when they took 5 lovely and very friendly dogs to visit an old age home, the elderly people were so happy to see the dogs. It was written all over their faces ……. The BIGGEST smiles you’ve ever seen


The dogs and their owners are thoroughly vetted by the Animals Asia team before being accepted and allowed to become a member of the Dr Dog team. The dogs owners work on a voluntary basis and there are currently 1000 dogs (approx) participating in the Dr Dog Project in Hong Kong and main land China.

It was a privilege to be invited to take part in such a fantastic and worth while project.  It was an emotional yet very rewarding experience. The world should all look after their elderly better. Well done to the Animal Asia – Dr Dog team/s for delivering such an amazing project. So good to witness animals and humans a mutually beneficial relationship!


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Off to Chengdu to see the Bears tomorrow, very excited!

Asia – Its a circus

Arrived in Hong Kong yesterday. Thunderstorms here and it’s 33 degrees and muggy … Phew 😳

I met up with Jill from Animals Asia Foundation (Jill Robinson MBE, the founder of this amazing charity)

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As part of my homework, I will be witnessing not only the state of the horrendous Bear Bile industry but a wide range of Animal Exploitation issues that the likes of Animals Asia are up against here.

Today we went to the Safari park in Guangzhou  … so so sad. We were in tears most of the time we were there. Beyond belief !

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This evening I went to the circus 😪😪😪😪

Elephants spinning around and dancing, bears dancing, bears riding bicycles, bears riding motorbikes, Tigers out on display, primates riding bicycles and playing musical instruments , bushbuck, zebra, giraffe and ostriches running around the circus ring as well as a fully grown hippo and a baby hippo doing tricks……and Flamingos running around and dancing …the list goes on, yes, I said the list goes on.

Over the next 2 weeks I will post regular updates providing an insight into what Animals Asia are doing to help combat animal exploitation in general.

Usiku the Hyena – Update

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A quick update on Usiku the young Hyena.  Apologies for he blurred photo’s but they have been taken through the fence!

He is getting on really well in his temporary enclosure within the Liwonde National park in Malawi. He is enjoying his food, his pool and interacting a bit with wild Hyena’s through the fence.

All very good news and this is exactly what everyone is hoping for. If the programme continues to go to plan, it won’t be too long before Usiku is released back into the wild where he will hopefully be welcomed into a wild clan of Hyena’s.

I will keep you posted on progress as and when I receive news from WERU (Wildlife Emergency Rescue Unit), who are managing the release programme. WERU is part of LWT (Lilongwe Wildlife Trust) in Malawi, one of the projects we are proud to be supporting. 
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Quick visit with Simba and Bella

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I managed to squeeze in a visit with my old ‘Big-Cat’ friends before I left Africa a few weeks ago.

Regular OATers may remember Simba and Bella… Simba’s rescue with Born Free in 2013 was the inspiration for the Olsen Animal Trust. He will always have a special place in our hearts.

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They are happy and settled in their home. OAT have funded a new shelter and water troughs for them. The seem pretty happy with the results… they look so relaxed it’s hard to tell!

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Managed to make time for a quick paddle in Lake Malawi… Beyond glorious!

Thanks Africa, you’ve been amazing!

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Baby Elephant Rescue

Whilst in Malawi recently, I met with African Parks and heard about a baby elephant that was seen with a snare on its leg.
African Parks  who manage Liwonde National Park on behalf of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) in Malawi, had seen the baby elephant on numerous occasions. Every time they mobilised the rescue team (WERU + a helicopter) the baby’s mother, the matriarch, lead her family into deep marsh / swamp lands to protect them from humans, making it impossible to dart the baby without it possibly drowning.
The day after I arrived in Liwonde National Park we received a call to say the herd including the snared baby elephant had been spotted again and this time they were far away from any marsh swamps land and therefore the timing couldn’t be better to mobilise the team and attempt to dart the baby and remove the snare.
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Within 1 hour the helicopter and the team had been mobilised and the rescue was on.
Within 3 hours the baby elephant had been located, darted and the snare removed.
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From the time the baby was darted it took only 45 mins and the baby was back with her mom and family and running free without the snare no longer on its foot which must have been so so painful.
Great work and Great collaboration between two fantastic organisations
(WERU & African Parks)… Well done guys!
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Appeal: OAT is looking for someone to match fund them in supporting WERU (Wildlife Emergency Rescue Team)… please get in touch with us if you would like to help. Thank you!