1248 GMT May 21, 2022
He revealed the horrors the animals have faced, and how he ended up living with them, mirror.co.uk reported.
Giles told his story, in his own words. "I started out in my career with animals as a 16-year-old volunteer in a wildlife sanctuary and went on to become a zookeeper.
“I then worked with some of the world’s most endangered big cats, including Sumatran tigers.
“For me, it’s about both looking after them in a captive environment and supporting their conservation in the wild, which is what led me to Laos in Southeast Asia, setting up a sanctuary for Sun and Moon bears.
“They are facing a tough time – they’re caught in the wild, then sold to bear bile farms where they’re treated appallingly or kept as trophy pets, which isn’t a much better alternative.”
It’s mainly Moon bears that are farmed for their bile. They’re kept in cages and routinely have their gall bladders punctured in order to extract the bile for use in Chinese medicines.
Their fur and body parts are also sold into the illegal wildlife trade.
In this environment, their lifespans are slashed from 40 years to about seven or eight.
More than 10,000 bears are kept in this kind of captivity across Asia.
Their smaller Sun bear cousins often witness their mothers being killed in the wild and are sold off as trophy pets where they’re kept in tiny cages or in chains.
It’s a horrific life. Both these bears are disappearing from the wild in Laos — they’re critically endangered and are already extinct in some areas.
“At the sanctuary, trust me when I say that there is never a dull moment.
“Before I’d even boarded the plane to Laos, Matt, a friend from charity Free The Bears, had called me saying they’d rescued a tiny female Sun bear cub.”
She was found in this tiny cage on the back of a truck that was filled with rubbish. She’d probably witnessed her mother’s death and was destined for a life of pain and misery.
It was full-steam ahead right from the start.
“I landed and went straight to Matt’s house where I met Mary for the first time. With her big doe eyes, fluffy ears and snuffly nose, it was love at first sight.”
She was the epitome of what this project is about; fragile, incredibly vulnerable and so small for her age.
She should have been twice the size she was.
“When I first met her she was scared, frightened and malnourished, but after a few days in a caring environment with the right nutrition she quickly found her feet.
“Mary became this larger-than-life character almost immediately. She would run head-first into everything.
“As she got bigger, it was obvious we had to move her out of Matt’s and up to the sanctuary — to save Matt’s house if nothing else!
“Once we got her there, she settled into her nursery enclosure almost immediately and she went from strength to strength. Whether it was climbing trees or breaking into termite mounds… you name it, she loved it. That’s not to say we didn’t have our challenges.
“I remember taking her for a walk one day and she shot off up a tree just as we were planning to head back to her nursery enclosure. She’d scaled it way beyond my reach and I spent hours trying to coax her down.”
She loves honey, she’ll do anything for the stuff, but she’s so intelligent (and stubborn) she won’t just come for it.
“I ended up having to trick her with a game, but managed to get her low enough to grab her.
“Without waiting around to find out if she thought it was a good idea or not, I legged it back to the enclosure. I have countless memories like that which will always make me laugh.”