The Story (inspired by the facts):
Somewhere, in the middle of the ocean there is a sanctuary for bears, an invisible bear island, Ursidora on its name, where every bear may come and live a happy humans-free life. No need to run anymore, no need to hide, no need to tremble for their cubs. Many bears came, some stayed, some returned to where they came from as they were home sick. It is not an easy thing to leave your native forest and come living on a distant island surrounded by endless wild water surfaces, no matter how much safety it would provide. But for some bears the absence of humans on the island was more important. So they remained despite their home sickness, despite feeling like they lost their roots. In time, the feeling of “home” will be restored. After several generations of bears, this will be the only home they will know, and the other lands, the old-native ones, will be known only from stories and humanity will be just an old horrible incomprehensible dream.
The bears are, usually, solitary beings, but on Ursidora the whole 8 bear species live together, as a community, cubs and adults, males and females and they are living a peaceful, beautiful life. And they all have to contribute to the welfare of this new land. Every bear has his specific job her, as the island needs proper maintenance.
The sun bears provide warmth and light whenever it is needed. Sometimes, when the sun forgets to show his face on the sky for several days in a row, it gets a little chilly on the island and the berry crops might be compromised if it weren’t for the sun bears. So they have a pretty important job when it comes to food. Also, during the coldest nights of the year, they are summoned by the other bears to warm the island. For the cubs’ sake, of course, as the adults wouldn’t admit that they are cold. So they had found in the little ones the perfect excuse.
There is a special place on the north of the island where the weather is colder and there are even frozen areas. It is where the polar bears live. They are the biggest bears on the island and the only ones that had never tasted blueberries. Not until now, anyway. As the island waters are sparse in seals, they had to eat berries to supplement their diet. And ohhh! how their mouths watered when the first berries touched their palates! But they didn’t say that to the others. They have their pride. They are hunters. They are carnivorous. They don’t eat blueberries. Well…only at night when no one sees them. But don’t tell anyone. The word spreads fast and the other bears might find out and then the polar bear image would be ruined forever. So …shhhh!
The polar bears are in charged with providing chilliness in the hot summer days, so the weather may be bearable. And they make a play out of their job! For example, they make ice puzzle bricks or ice balls for the cubs to play with, and, sometimes, they even build ice slides for who ever feels like ice-sliding, cubs or adults. They have such a joyful spirit and this is seen in everything they do, even in their job! They are a delight to be near to, especially for the little ones. Every time a Polar bear appears, he is instantly surrounded by cubs. They know it is play time.
The Giant Panda bears‘ only job is to be cute and through their cuteness to bring love and joy into the others’ hearts. Every time someone is in a bad mood, it is time for Panda to enter the stage and bring a smile or an Awww on the face and in the soul of the moody one. And Panda never fails to lift up one’s spirit. He simply has to show up. That’s it. His innate cuteness does the rest.
The spectacle bears are in charge with the security of the island. Through their magnifying spectacles, they are the first to observe from a great distance any ship or any other human-made machine that is approaching the island. Ursidora is invisible, but not immaterial. So, if a ship, a submarine, or whatever takes its course, its secret existence is in danger to be revealed. And that would be the end of it. So the spectacle bears have a huge responsibility in spotting any potential danger in time and send the wind or the oceanic currents, according to the situation, to deviate the course of any approaching ship and keep the island and its inhabitants safe.
The Asiatic black bears or the moon bears as they are known, regulate the tides every time the moon gets wild. Crazy moon! When she has a bad night (usually after a quarrel with the sun), she can’t control herself anymore or she doesn’t want to. I don’t know. She’s a bit of a …lunatic. In such nights, she would raise the ocean level so much that if it wasn’t for the moon bears, the berry crops would be flooded and, therefore, compromised. Another important job of the moon bears is to light up the cloudy nights or any other nights in which the moon doesn’t feel like showing her face. She is such a moody lady. But precious, nonetheless. And a bit of light is imperative during the night as the spectacle bears cannot see in the dark and they have to do their job day and night.
The sloth bears are in charge with what they do best: relaxing. Their main concern is to make sure that everyone takes enough time for relaxation and doesn’t stress too much with working and with the problems of the island. They are also the ones who provide counseling as they are good psychologists. And, unfortunately, for this generation of bears, home sick might be a problem, from time to time, one that needs to be solved with the help of a specialist.
The American black bear is the painter and the story teller of the island. He narrates through words and images drawn on soil. He is always surrounded by cubs eager to listen to new invented adventures about unknown lands and unimaginable beings. Two days a week, Wednesday and Saturday, usually, are reserved for adults. They need stories, too., as they are good for the spirit. When they don’t tell stories, they paint portraits of the inhabitants. They are in great demand. Everyone wants to be immortalized on the island stones.
The grizzly bears are the wisest. They are the problem and conflict solvers (other than psychological, that are the sloth bears’ area of expertise). And there are many problems, many questions on the island: which way to go to reach the tallest peak, where to bury the cubs’ milk teeth, near whom to stay during the story telling gatherings, to make or not to make friends with the seagulls, how many stories a day are needed to be told and so much more. You see … the bears on this island have problems, too.
This is a glimpse of the bear lives on Ursidora. Of course you might wonder how do I know so many things about it. Well… just as Marco Polo knew so many things about the Invisible cities, so do I know things about the invisible islands. Because there are more. This is only one of them. I’ll tell you about the other ones another time. Probably. Oh! I forgot something of importance. Every New Moon, all the bears gather in the Spirit clearing, sun bears in the middle, looking like a big fire, the others circling them and pray together for the bears left home, on their native lands and for the humanity to awaken. Until the moment of awakening, Ursidora will exist somewhere in the planetary ocean. You will forgive me if I don’t divulge the location. It is only for the bears’ ears.
The Facts (that led to the story):
There are 8 bear species in the world and their future doesn’t look too bright. Nor does the present, actually. They are haunted for trophies, for their paws, for their meat, for their gall bladder, they are used in the circus, they are showcased in Zoos, they are raised in bile-bear farms. Humans would do anything, would use everything and everyone in order to stay healthy, beautiful, entertained, fulfilled in every aspects of their lives (or at least in several, but the more the better) and, above all, to extend their lives to the maximum possible. We are ignorant, we take many things for granted, we like to think we deserve a lot, if not everything. We consider we deserve treats to ease and/or sweeten our lives because being human is hard enough (at least this is one of our pretty-often-used excuses for many unkind things we do) and, of course because we are the “superior” beings (according to our definition of terms).
I am ignorant in many aspects of life, too, but I am learning, I am trying, I do my best not to let myself drown completely in the sea of ignorance, as I see it as the root of all the suffering in the world, even if it gives one the illusion of happiness. Of the bile bear farms – real houses of horrors – I’ve only heard several weeks ago, even though they exit since 1980, but, knowing human nature, the information didn’t surprise me a lot. A little bit more sadness made its way into my heart, but I am already used to it, so… it’s not a big deal, and it made me realize once more that the shadow of the Middle Ages is still present in today’s world. For the sake of medicine, thousands of bears are imprisoned in tiny little cages, not bigger then coffins and sucked dry of their bile day after day after day for years, in multiple farms in China, Vietnam, Laos, South Korea, Myanmar. The ursodeoxycholic acid, contained by the bear bile, is medically proven to help dissolve gallstones and treat liver disease and even if the scientists have found synthetic alternatives to it, there are some doctors that are still after the “natural thing”. Therefore, bears are still hunted for their bile and, even worse, they are raised in dystopian farms for the same purpose. The farms had become illegal in some of the mentioned countries but people still find methods to elude the law and perpetuate this diabolic practice. The Giant Panda bear is the only one who is exempt from these dreadful farms as his body doesn’t produce the so-much-wanted acid. Lucky Panda!
The caged bear images are horrific, the thought of what they are subjected to is really disturbing. The thousands of medical articles over the internet speaking of the benefits of bear bile products are a disgrace to humanity. The advertising of such products is sickening. The demand of such products around the globe is beyond sad. But there are the others, the ones that make my heart smile, the ones that care for something/someone else but themselves and their own good, the ones that took action and started fighting for the bears, the ones whose souls and thoughts and actions light the planet. And they are winning this hard and long battle. Slowly, but they are winning. We’ll wear the stigma of such horrible actions in our history pages and in our conscience forever but, hopefully, the bears will find the compassion in their hearts and they will be able to forgive us one day.
Sending the caged bears my thoughts infused with love, compassion and good vibes doesn’t help much. So I have joined #TheOnlyCureIsKindness campaign on AnimalAsia.org and decided to help these poor souls trapped in bear bodies in every way I can from distance. It isn’t their fault they are bears. It is their luck. Or the lack of it. I invite all of you, who resonate with the cause, to help a bit. Any little help counts more than one might think.
Thank you for reading!
Note: Money earned by selling this design will be donated to AnimalAsia.org to support them in their fight against bile bear farming.