SEEING a bear enjoy sunshine for the first time in its life is Mary Hutton’s favourite memory from 21 years spent helping to free bears in India and South-East Asia.
The Perth grandmother established Free the Bears Foundation in 1995 after watching a documentary about bears in Asia being farmed for their bile.
She recalls vividly the moment a golden bear was released from its tiny cage in Thailand into the sanctuary she had helped create, ignoring food and enrichment treats for a more simple pleasure.
“She’d never felt grass below her feet, never felt sunshine,” she said.
“She just sniffed the air and lay down on the ground with her feet in the air and went to sleep in the sun.
“I was very touched; she seemed to appreciate what we’d done.”
A Butler event this Sunday will raise money for the foundation and specifically go towards building a second much-needed sanctuary in Laos.
Alkimos resident Dianne Rynne and friends Michelle Girouard and Wendy Charlwood are hosting a teddy bears picnic at Brampton Park from 10am to 3pm.
The day will feature pony rides, teddy bears for sale, games stalls, face painting, sausage sizzle, coffee van, sweet treats, bear merchandise and a book signing by Mrs Hutton between noon and 2pm.
After meeting Mrs Hutton last year, Ms Rynne was inspired to help.
“I just find her amazing and it’s such a good cause,” she said.
Despite eradicating the dancing bear trade in India, setting up sanctuaries in India, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam and rescuing more than 900 bears, Mrs Hutton said there was plenty more to do.
What: Teddy Bears Picnic for Free the Bears Foundation
Where: Brampton Park, Butler
Details: Free, bring a picnic blanket