Australian couple reaches out to Vietnamese bears

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Taurus, one of the four bears that Richard and Joanna Collins sponsored at the Tam Dao bear rescue center

An Australian couple has been spending their free time fundraising for a bear rescue center in Vietnam for more than six years in hopes of saving Vietnamese bears from becoming extinct.

Richard and Joanna Collins recently flew from Australia to Vietnam to work at the Animals Asia Foundation's (AFF) bear rescue center in Tam Dao, the VnExpress news website reported. In this their second visit to Vietnam, they donated a US$30,000 car to the center to aid in bear rescue missions.

Over the past six years the couple has donated more than $400,000 to the center. They have repeatedly called on philanthropists to help Vietnamese bears, which are on the verge of extinction. Their latest fundraising push produced more than $160,000 that was donated to AAF.

The couple hails from Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia, where Richard owns an auto shop and Joanna works in the beauty care sector.

The couple and their associates have demonstrated their support for more than 30 charity organizations for poor children and endangered animals in various countries.

A meeting with Jill Robinson, the founder of AAF, six years ago opened the couple's hearts to the cause of farmed bears that have been systematically tortured by the bear bile industry.

"I admire Jill for her contribution to the animal protection cause and her commitment to the mission of ending bile bear farming across Vietnam and China," explained Joanna.

After their meeting with Robinson, the Collins couple started making monthly donations to AAF. They donated food, and then money to build more cages for the bears. They called on their friends donate as well.


Richard and Joanna Collins discuss their love for bears (Photo: VnExpress)

"The bears are lovely with silky hair and they love to play," Joanna said.

"I like to hug them. I hope bears all over the world will be protected.

"I'm glad to know the Vietnamese government is taking positive measures to protect them."

Joanna told VnExpress she was saddened upon hearing about the condition of bears farmed for their bile. 

She and her husband sponsored four bears at the Tam Dao bear rescue center. They are called Jarvis, Taurus, Ricky and Joey.

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"I sponsored Taurus and it is really heartwarming to know that Taurus and Jarvis have found peace at the center," she said.

"Animals can't talk," Richard explained simply. "If we can help [the animals] change human conceptions, we are always willing to do so."

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