scoot | Issue 50 • July 2019

33 SCOOT PHOTOGRAPHY PETER YUEN I t’s lunchtime, and the nine hungry diners in front of me are getting impatient. Clutching an overflowing tin full of freshly roasted pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and turnip, I have less than 20 minutes to serve it to my guests. Instead of dishing out the food onto fine tableware, I wedge them between tree branches, under rustic log piles, and within leaf-covered dens, because my guests aren’t your average diners – they are 220-pound moon bears. Navigating the leaf and moss-strewn pathways, I’m surprised to see how huge the Luang Prabang Wildlife Sanctuary actually is. Gingerly navigating tree roots and crisp piles of leaves, I place the chunks of root vegetables in the hammocks where the bears love lounging in. Looking at these healthy and content creatures, it’s difficult to imagine that most of them have led difficult lives: they were either illegally trafficked across borders, found living in the worst conditions, or used as a tourist attraction. But that life is over now, thankfully, thanks to the Free the Bears charitable wildlife- protection organisation, who has moved mountains to rescue and protect these moon bears from illegal wildlife trade. After emptying the large silver serving dish and sweeping the leaves into neat piles, my fellow rangers invite me to watch the moon bears track down my work. With a sense of smell that can cover up to 32 kilometres, it’s not long before these giant furry creatures scoot their way up to the tree trunks and snatch a piece of juicy pumpkin from a hammock. One gently noses a turnip out from under a rock while another triumphantly finds a stashed sweet potato under a log pile. Having been put on unhealthy diets by their previous owners, the bears are ecstatic with their now-nutritious grub.

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