Called 'Free the Bears', it is the auto-biography of Mary Hutton, founder of the Australian wildlife charity, Free the Bears Fund. I helped Mary write her book, and have a co-author credit.
The book tells the story of how an ordinary Perth grandmother started a charity from scratch and has subsequently made a huge difference, facilitating the rescue of hundreds of captive and abused bears in South-East Asia and India. From collecting signatures outside her local shopping centre, to creating a million-dollar charity responsible for the care of over 500 bears now living in FTB-supported sanctuaries, it's testament to the power of passion, dedication and putting beliefs into action.
One of Free the Bear's major undertakings was the creation of a bear sanctuary within the grounds of Lop Buri Zoo in Thailand. Before FTB's input, the bears in this zoo were kept in awful cages, barely big enough for them to move in. They now have a lovely enclosure with a pool, climbing equipment and access to sunlight, grass and trees.
FTB also supports bears at the Wildlife Friends of Thailand Rescue Centre near Hua Hin. Run by Dutch wildlife warrior Edwin Wiek, this sanctuary rescues injured and abused wild animals such as gibbons, leopard cats, slow lorises and even tigers, with an emphasis on rehabilitation and re-release into the wild. The 10 badly injured or disabled bears, however, have a permanent home at the centre, safe from further abuse and the dangers of poaching.
'Free the Bears' by Mary Hutton and Julie Miller is truly an inspiration read, a must for any animal lover and supporters of wildlife charities. It also gives some insight into Thailand's stewardship of its native wildlife, which is controversial at best and frustratingly appalling at worst. But above all, the book presents a message of hope - that anyone can facilitate change if they truly believe in a cause.
'Free the Bears' by Mary Hutton and Julie will be published April 1 by Pan MacMillan. Available in any good book shop.