So far it’s been a very busy year for OAT on the travel front! We have visited numerous projects we support in both Asia and Africa and its been great to have the rest of the family with me on some of the trips.
Myself, Sue and Jonathan kicked it off with a visit to China and Vietnam in March, and I am pleased to say my nephew Jeff (17) and niece Nicola (12), joined us on this trip. We are hopeful they will carry the legacy of OAT forward into the next generation and continue to help all animals in need.
Our trip included visits to Animals Asia’s bear sanctuaries in both China and Vietnam, who collectively home 100’s of bears rescued from the horrific bear bile industry.
Everyone loved seeing the bears in their beautiful lush enclosures, enriched with plenty of activities to keep them stimulated. The Olsens even participated in hiding some of the bear food in the enclosures – when the bears were safely locked into their night enclosures of course – and it was great to see the bears foraging around afterwards looking for and then enjoying delicious pieces of fruit, vegetables and even mayonnaise and honey 🍯😋!
Animal Asia’s mission, is to continue their rescue, rehabilitation and advocacy work, until one day the inhumane practice of bear bile farming is outlawed completely. Through their tenacious efforts over the last 20 years, the practice was recently abolished in Vietnam and there are positive signs that China will follow suit in the future.
Although Animals Asia’s main focus is bears, they deal with many welfare issues relating to other wild and domestic animals such as dogs, cats and elephants. Education is also a key element of their work which is crucial for changing peoples attitudes to animal welfare now, and in the future.
We are supporting a relatively new initiative of Animals Asia’s in Vietnam aimed at ending the disgraceful tourist activity of elephant back riding. More on this later as the project develops but if successful, this will be a real game changer. Whilst there, we visited some rescued elephants and those currently being used for riding. 😓
Wilderness Foundation – Forever Wild Rhino; Vietnam be my Hero
Whilst in Vietnam, we also visited the offices of Forever Wild Rhino; Vietnam be my Hero, a project owned and operated by The Wilderness Foundation, whose aim is to reduce the demand for rhino horn by educating the next generation. A select number of students who have demonstrated their passion for conservation are bought to South Africa each year to see rhinos and other indigenous wildlife in their natural environment. They are then educated on the effects of the trade in rhino horn and the impact it is having on the survival of the species. On their return to Vietnam, they are tasked with becoming ambassadors / Rhino Heroes in their own country to contribute towards the preservation of the species. We were lucky enough to have met some of these student ambassadors in person, as well as the overall project managers. We were also privileged to meet the projects’ famous ambassador, Thanh Bui, pop idol, and founder of Soul Music Academy in Vietnam. A totally selfless man who is passionate about wildlife conservation.
Save Vietnam’s Wildlife
We also took the time to see first hand the conservation, rescue, rehab and release work of Save Vietnam’s Wildlife. Another incredibly successful organisation that we support, founded and managed by Thai Nguyen Van who focuses on the preservation of pangolins and other small mammals. OAT contributed to the build of their Pangolin quarantine quarters and we saw many precious pangolins in this facility. They were in the final stage of their rehabilitation programme being prepared for final release 😀 Pangolins are one of the most trafficked mammals in the world and Thai and his team do an incredible job. They also have a first class education centre which we thoroughly enjoyed visiting.
After a full days work visiting many aspects of the project we enjoyed a collaborative gathering of OAT, Save Vietnam’s Wildlife and Animals Asia 👍😀
This visit to Asia was an emotional experience, especially for my sister Sue, who established our family trust 3 years ago to help animals in need. It really bought home to her and us the true extent of suffering that animals endure at the hands of human exploitation. Having said this, it was also very inspirational seeing first hand the work that amazing people and organisations do to combat the suffering and effect positive change in peoples attitude to animal welfare and conservation. It really reinforced our commitment to support such organisations, and to coin an Animals Asia phrase, “until the cruelty ends…”
Two more blogs to follow up shortly. One relating to my recent return to the Chimpanzee Conservation Centre in Guinea and shortly thereafter, a trip to Zambia to visit the Elephant Orphanage Project 👍