Demand for bear bile, a traditional Asian medicine, has driven the capture of Asian bear species for decades even though a number of effective herbal and synthetic alternatives now exist. The bear bile industry’s main victims are moon bears or Asiatic black bears in addition to brown bears and sun bears.
Currently, over 10,000 bears are held captive in bear bile farms across China, with 2,400 others held in Vietnam. Each and every one of these bears suffer the same cruel fate – dehydration, starvation, disease development, and daily confinement in tiny cages that barely allow enough room for these 200 to 300 pound five-foot-tall bears to turn around or even stand on all fours.
According to Animals Asia, bears can be kept in cages for up to 30 years, with some bears placed in captivity as mere cubs and never released.
Bile is often extracted from bears without anesthesia and before prior extraction wounds heal, adding more pain to an already agonizing existence.
Now, Asia’s bear bile victims have a new, powerful ally: Microsoft. The IT giant has joined in on Animals Asia’s campaign to end bear bile farming by donating time and expertise to develop a stunning new interactive educational website called Exploring Moon Bears, which aims to shine a spotlight on the plight of China’s moon bears and the work of Animals Asia.
The website’s main feature is the story of Jasper, a moon bear currently living out the rest of his days at Animals Asia’s Moon Bear Rescue Center. Like other moon bears in Animals Asia’s care, Jasper was rescued from a bear bile farm, where he lived in a metal cage for 15 years, suffering extraction after extraction.
Exploring Moon Bear site visitors are able to learn about Jasper’s dark, painful past and also get to know who he is now as a happily rescued bear through colorful before-and-after story flipbooks that include multimedia elements such as puzzles, games and videos.
Microsoft first got involved with this web project after visiting Animals Asia’s sanctuary in Chengdu, China, where 140 rescued bears now live. The company was originally searching for a project to showcase Internet Explorer 11’s capabilities, and while the new site does indeed do this, Microsoft’s project grew more out of love than an assignment.
As Animals Asia founder Jill Robinson notes, “Jasper and the moon bears touched the collective hearts of Microsoft.”
The new site is expected to reach millions of school children across China and will hopefully influence these youngsters to become ambassadors for the country’s moon bears.
As Robinson says, “Education is the key to changing the world and ensuring that people know the cruelty and illegality behind bile farming.”
Check out Exploring Moon Bears right here and be sure to spread the word about this amazing new educational tool!
Lead image source: Animals Asia / Facebook