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China trip for reporting team to witness campaign results first hand

Newspaper staff travelled more than 5,700 miles in pursuit of a story that has captured the imagination of their readers.

Ruth Wood and Jon Mills, from the Western Daily Press, went to China to see how money raised by readers has helped to save “bile bears” in the country.

Chief reporter Ruth and picture editor Jon made the trip to a Chinese bear sanctuary after an appeal by the paper collected £120,000.

The money is to rescue and rehabilitate five bears, and pay for the construction of seven dens and a huge playpen for another 28.

The original appeal had aimed to raise £5,000, but the response from readers was so strong that this quickly mushroomed.

Ruth told HoldtheFrontPage: “Seeing the rescued bears face-to-face was amazing. They all have their own personalities.

“To see what our readers paid for was really emotional for me and Jon.”

  • Two of the rescued bears
  • During the five-day trip Ruth and Jon saw the five rescued bears in their new home, at a sanctuary in Chengdu run by the Animal Asia Foundation.

    These included two bear cubs and their mother and father, who had been rescued from one of the 200 bile farms in China, where they were kept in cramped cages while bile was drained from them to make traditional medicines.

    Ruth said: “The medicines are now outdated – there are more than 50 alternatives to bear bile so there is no need for any animal suffering.

    “Television presenter Michaela Strachan said it is the worst practice of animal cruelty, and having been there I would say it is certainly up there.

    “It is good to know that five bears who would have probably died in agony can now enjoy a peaceful life free of pain.”

    Jon added: “I’m proud to have been part of it.

    “To be involved in turning an idea into this physical thing is really quite special, and is testament to the readers’ love of animals.”

  • The Western Daily Press den at the bear sanctuary
  • Daily Press editor Terry Manners said: “Some people mocked us when we pledged, along with the Somerset charity Animals Asia, to free these tortured animals, who live in dark cells all their lives so that these awful Chinese farmers can extract their bile and sell it for use in outdated and old-fashioned medicines.

    “But the heartbreaking stories and pictures of the wounded and sick Moon Bears touched the heart of our communities across the West Country.

    “No one can fail to be moved by the words of our chief reporter Ruth as she describes the bears’ first steps to freedom … and no one can fail to be heartened by the pictures of joy on the faces of workers in the Western Daily Den, when these animals romped in freedom for the first time.

    “We are so proud of our campaign.”