About us

Our Vision

A world where bears are valued as an integral part of the natural environment and are no longer exploited or abused

Our Mission

To protect, preserve and enrich the lives of bears throughout the world

Strategic Aims

1.    Create and support world-class bear sanctuaries; government owned, managed to the highest level of welfare and striving towards long-term sustainability

2.    Develop alternative sustainable livelihood programmes for the community to prevent impoverished families from exploiting bears for profit

3.    Strengthen wildlife law enforcement efforts through advocacy and training

4.    Protect wild bear populations through community-led efforts and increased understanding of wild bear populations

5.    Build the capacity of local partners and staff including government authorities, veterinarians, researchers, school-teachers, and animal care staff

Achievements

2015

·      Free the Bears hosts the 7th annual Wild Animal Rescue Network conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

·      Bear House 8 opens in Cambodia - raising the bar once again for standards of care for rescued bears

·      Mobile education unit - B.E.A.R mobile - is launched in Laos

·      Nationwide bear surveys launched in Vietnam to assess the status of wild bear populations, plans drawn up for a new $500,000 sanctuary at Cat Tien National Park

·      Mary Hutton wins prestigious "Jeanne Marchig Award for Animal Welfare" plus "Pride of Australia" medals for Environment and People's Choice categories

2014

·      The Laos Forest & Wildlife Discovery Trail at Tat Kuang Si is developed, incorporating distinct visitor zones for 200,000+ annual visitors

·      Kong the Sun bear has his vision restored following groundbreaking ophthalmic surgery

·      Cambodia highlighted as leading the way amongst 16 Asian nations in terms of bear rescue

·      Blue the Sun bear cub arrives at our Cambodian Bear Sanctuary unable to walk due to spinal injuries, his story subsequently goes viral and is seen by almost 1million people!

2013

·      The world's first neurosurgery on a bear takes place at Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre to relieve ChamPa of her hydrocephalic condition

·      Free the Bears celebrates milestone anniversaries in Laos and Cambodia with the opening of the Bear Discovery Trail

·      World-class Cub Nursery and Quarantine Area, utilising state-of-the-art green technologies, opens at our Cambodian Bear Sanctuary

·      Free the Bears conducts a training course at Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre for officials from wildlife departments of Lao PDR Govt to effectively perform inspections of bile extraction facilities with an aim to ending the bile trade in Laos

·      2nd scholarship given to Laos MSc student in investigate efficiencies of different forest patrol methods in Nam Kan NPA

2012

·      Bear House 3 opens in Laos - complete with veterinary theatre and additional forest enclosures

·      Emergency snare patrols launched in Nam Kan National Protected Area, Laos, following the discovery of intensive hunting targetting wild bears

·      Bear House 7 opens in Cambodia - including a dedicated classroom area "The Bear Den"

·      Chuon Vuthy, our Cambodia Programme Manager, wins prestigious "Future for Nature Award"

2011

·      Luang Prabang bear bile farm is ordered closed - striking the first major blow against bear bile farming in Laos

·      1st Scholarship given to Lao MSc student to investigate human-bear conflict mitigation in Nam Et Phou Louey NPA, Laos, and two snared bears are rescued and re-released

·      "Paws for Thought" education campaign launched in Thailand to increase environmental awareness in communities surrounding Khao Yai National Park

2010

·      World first laparoscopic (keyhole) surgeries to removed damaged gallbladders from former bile farm bears take place at the Mekong Delta Bear Sanctuary

·      Wildlife Law Enforcement meeting sponsored in Laos as part of ASEAN-WEN initiative

·      Nationwide mapping of wild bear populations begins in Laos, while support is given for PhD research into Sun bear populations in Sumatra

2009     

·      “Raju” the last of India’s dancing bears is handed over, bringing the dancing bear trade to an end

·      Extension completed at Tat Kuang Si Bear Rescue Centre in Laos, incorporating a second Bear House and trebling the forest area available for bears.

·      Launched nationwide campaign against illegal wildlife trade as part of the Lao Illegal Wildlife Trade working group.

·      First group of nine bears arrive at the Mekong Delta Bear Sanctuary in Vietnam

2008     

·      Bear Discovery Centre opened in Cambodia as numbers of bears at Phnom Tamao climbs above 100 for the first time

·      Bear House 5 opens in Cambodia - including our first dedicated nursery area to care for growing numbers of orphaned bear cubs

·      500th Dancing bear rescued in India - four sanctuaries now being supported across India (Agra, Bangalore, Bhopal and West Bengal)

·      Cat Tien Bear Sanctuary opens as Vietnam's biggest semi-natural area for rescued bears in Vietnam

·      Ground is broken on the Mekong Delta Bear Sanctuary in Vietnam, increasing the capacity for housing bears rescued from the bile trade

2007

·      Bear Sign Survey training course held in Cambodia for protected area rangers and scientists

·      Donated funds to Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand to build further sanctuaries for rescued Sun bears and Moon bears

·      Donated funds to Gabriella Fredriksson to complete Sun Bear Education Center in East Kalimantan, Indonesia

2006     

·      Free the Bears opens the Cambodian Wildlife Hospital at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre in Cambodia

·      Donated funds to Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand to build a new sanctuary for rescued Sun bears and Moon bears

2005     

·      First eco tours of Cambodia and Laos conducted in association with World Expeditions

·      Donated funds to Gabriella Fredericksson to support the establishment of the Sun Bear Education & Conservation Center in East Kalimantan, Indonesia

·      100th ‘Dancing Bear’ rescued from the streets of India

2004     

·      Donated funds to Wildlife Alliance’s Kouprey Express environmental education programme in Cambodia

·      Donated funds to the Karuna Society in India to build an enclosure for Barney bear in Puttaparthi

2003     

·      Began building a sanctuary at Tat Kuang Si park in Luang Prabang, Laos, for rescued Moon bears

·      Provided funding for Bang Per Wildlife Sanctuary rangers and equipment in Cambodia

2002     

·      Joined in a partnership with Wildlife SOS (India) and International Animal Rescue (UK) to fund the Agra Bear Rescue Facility (ABRF) in India.

·      Welcomed the first 25 rescued dancing bears to the Agra Bear Rescue Facility on Christmas Day

2001     

·      Donated funds to Professor Pazhetnov for his rescued Russian bear cub programme

2000     

·      Extended facilities for adult male Sun bears at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre in Cambodia

1999     

·      Built a sanctuary for bears in the Lopburi Zoo, Thailand

·      Completed the bear cub playpen at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre in Cambodia

·      Built a 6000m2 sanctuary for Moon bears at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre in Cambodia

1998     

·      Three Sun bears relocated from Cambodia to Perth Zoo, Australia

·      Finalist in the National Geographic ‘Blue Planet Heroes’ competition

·      Donated funds to the Eakehei Project to survey numbers of the Spectacled bear in Ecuador

1997     

·      Three Sun bears relocated from Cambodia to Taronga Park Zoo, Sydney, Australia

·      Established the first Sun bear and Moon bear sanctuary in the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre in Cambodia

·      Donated funds to WSPA to complete their sanctuary for Sun bears at Banglamung Rescue Centre, Thailand

1996     

·      Donated funds to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to assist in the construction of the Pan Yu sanctuary for rescued bile farm bears in China

1995     

·      Free the Bears Fund Inc. founded by Mary Hutton

1993

·      Mary Hutton begins collecting signatures calling for an end to bear bile farming in China