The Boten Bear Sanctuary - March 2011
Wishful thinking versus the realities on the ground:
The internet postings below seem to indicate that something is happening at Boten concerning the proposed bear sanctuary (consultants ending up with a lot of donor money in their pockets...).
Based on a recent visit by a French journalist, four additional very small bears have just been added to the farm. This makes it clear that the owner (clearly with the backing of the local authorities) keeps buying up bears every birthing season (five last year). Having negotiated with him several times it is very clear that he is not buying these bears to then give them away, He expects to make a nifty profit to sell them to some of these 'crazy animal lovers'. So while he is buying more wild caught baby bears, the NGOs in question tell us that they will close the farm for good, If they do not hurry up he will offer them a dozen more bears to buy and I would not put it past him to ship in some of the 50 which he owns at his other miserable farm at Mong Lah in Myanmar.
This is now on top of the four 'grease covered - restaurant bears" which the former CEO of Boten stated were ready to go to the sanctuary in Luang Prabang with the owners having donated them. This then never happened because the CEO went back on his earlier promise, clarifying this would only happen if all the NGOs involved - including the one in Singapore - agreed to such a transfer.
Despite a half a dozen requests to the responsible party at ACRES, to put their position in writting on these four bears, this never materialized. Today, it would appear, that these animals are all history and will certainly not get a second chance. The French journalist and my former guide could no longer find any of them,
So instead of less dead and traumatized bears in miserable cages there are today more then there were before the involvement of the NGOs. Can this naive approach really be the basis for more fund raising and Gala Diners?
The Boten Bear Sanctuary - September 2010
In June, we went to Boten, Lao P.D.R. with the intention to get a quote for the construction of the sanctuary. It utterly disappointed me when I went to pick up the plans from the architect to find that I was presented with a concept drawing and photocopies of the hand-sketches of each building (back to square one). With no choice, I went off to Boten to meet the contractors with what they gave me just to get scolded for giving them useless information (Which I do not blame them)... and of course... I had to come back with no quote! With no quote, I cannot fundraise... This architect quoted me 1.4M baht (~42,430 USD) for blue prints!!! And I still need to take it to an engineer!!! Uh... no!
At the end of July, we got a new architect. The quote is about 900,000 baht (~28,100 USD) for everything except construction. Still pretty steep for a foundation, but considering the amount of work it is very reasonable. I just hope we can get a quote in time for the September 3rd Gala Dinner in Australia.
Paperwork has been an issue as well. As we have been checking in at every visit, we did not expect the problem that has recently been encountered. Despite 'their' several confirmations of receiving all the paperwork (delivered by our hand to 'their' hand), they now tell us that they've never received the paperwork!!! How is this possible? Anyhow, everything was resubmitted in July, they confirmed receiving it this time when I called to check. We'll see!
On a lighter note, we checked on the bears and they have not disappeared yet. We have been worried that the bear farm owners would one day smuggle the bears out of the farm.
Everything for this project is very time sensitive. The delays are not helping! I've also been wondering why there are people discouraging us from continuing this project.
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