I am not sure what I feel about so-called animal rehabilitation or rescue centres because although I am all for saving animals and helping them survive, I do not agree with how many of these places exploit the animals for personal unethical interests. Sigh, so divided, especially when the animals in these centres (and some zoos, even!) look unhealthy, sad and distressed.
When we approached Tat Kuang Si, we were only expecting to visit the waterfall. Little did we know... no, wrong, we did not know at all that there was a rescue centre for bears there, too.
The Tat Kuang Si Rescue Centre is run by Free the Bears Fund, which I am so proud to say was started by Australians and is now in its 21st year of saving, protecting and enriching the lives of bears around the world. I was immediately impressed by their environment in Luang Prabang. Although they were in enclosures (which I am pretty sure is for the safety of both visitors and animals), it was a pretty natural environment, not a sterile one with cement floors and colourful artificial "toys".
At the time of our visit, there were 23 bears at this centre. All bears were Asiatic Black Bears, also known as Moon Bears due to the pretty white crest on their chests.
My breath was taken away by how beautiful they looked! They had healthy, shiny, thick coats of fur and they looked well-fed and relaxed, playing happily in the water and rolling in the leaves on the ground. In all honesty, I have never been this up close to a bear, not even at the zoo, where normally there is a huge gap between the public and the animals enclosures. But not here, where the observation platforms were really close and only separated by a simple chainwire mesh fence. Made me think that animals are like children - when you trust them, they learn to trust us, too.
These bears are the lucky ones, for they have been confiscated by the Lao government in time before they cross the borders into unknown and cruel conditions of bile farms or animal circuses.
Tat Kuang Si is about 30 kilometres southwest of Luang Prabang and is known by most if not all tuktuk drivers. For my next birthday, instead of presents, please make a donation to support this noble cause and contribute that little more to the betterment of the world. We humans have done enough to tarnish our "good" reputation, don't you think?