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09 January 2006
Bile farm bears in paradise

"All the world's a stage
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,..."

So goes this famous soliloquy in Shakespeare's As You Like It. Shakespeare, through his character Jacques, compares life to a play, where each actor contributes toward the overall success or failure of the larger work through his/her individual performance. Subsequent philosophers have furthered this concept by theorizing that the most any individual can accomplish in life is to positively influence our nearest neighbors and fellow 'actors' in the play that is life. This is a philosophy that makes sense to me. I think it's also a theme for my friend Kati.

Kati is a friend and fellow 'actor' within my local part of the big 'play.' She's currently a veterinarian in China working with Animals Asia Foundation. Kati and other dedicated folks work diligently every day to rescue and rehabilitate bears that have been cruelly used for 'bile farming' in Asia. I've known Kati since my first stint in grad school while she attended vet school here in Michigan. After working in a veterinary practice for a time, she returned to school for a PhD and then went on to work on environmental toxicology research topics at the University of Wisconsin and the Smithsonian Institution before finding her place among the bears at AAF in China. She's always wanted to work with bears and I'm happy she's found a way to apply her enormous volume of knowledge and compassion with them, though I know this must be very difficult work.

I've written about Kati and her bears before. This week, she's sent a few photos of 'Banjo,' a darling, fun-loving young male bear who is a victim of the "free-dripping" method of bile collection. Before his rescue, he suffered a crude surgery to create a permanent hole in his abdomen, from which bile was drained. Banjo is lucky to be alive as other bears have tragically died as a result of this treatment. Today, Banjo is healthy and happy, living in bear paradise with his play buddy, 'Jasper.' Click the photos below for a larger view. Banjo is a handsome Asiatic black bear. In the photos, Banjo's the bear with no 'eyebrows.'

Banjo up high Banjo & Jasper

Banjo & Jasper Banjo & Jasper

I'm grateful that my fellow 'actors' are able to provide such essential services as these. And I'm grateful that the internet(s) now allow our 'sphere of influence' to reach around the planet and stay in touch. Thanks Kati.

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