Look at that cheeky face and sweet grin. Professional animal photographer Alex Cearns has been visiting the South East Asian sanctuaries operated by Free The Bears (FTB) for the past four years, and through her images, has been documenting the daily lives of the bear residents. As the World Expeditions animal photography tour host, Alex has the enviable task of taking people to visit the FTB centres to photograph the bears. World Expeditions has provided long term support to FTB by running tours to the sanctuaries and donating part of each person’s tour fee to FTB.


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Alex’s recent tour was to the FTB’s Cambodian Sanctuary, accompanied by 8 bear loving Australians.

The Cambodian sanctuary is well established and is a world class care centre for rescued sun and moon bears.

When the tour group arrived, they met this sweet 4 month old sun bear cub, known by her rescue number, “193”. She was the smallest bear in the sanctuary, weighing in at 9.9 pounds, and she was the perfect subject for a photo shoot. She tumbled and frolicked and played up to Alex’s camera in the most adorable way.

Tour member Angela fell in love with cub 193 and made a wonderful donation to FTB> This allowed her to give her an official new name. And what did she choose? Arya Stark. Being a Game of Thrones fan, Angela’s choice of name was the perfect fit for this little cub who is already growing up to be strong, fearless and feisty.

This year is the 21st anniversary year of Free The Bears as a registered charity organisation. Foundered in Perth, Australia, by Mary Hutton in 1993, the organisation now rescues and cares for bears across South East Asia, specifically, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, with sanctuary support provided to Wildlife SOS and International Animal Rescue, their partners in India. Over 900 bears have been rescued.

FTB’s vision is for a world where bears are valued as an integral part of the natural environment and are no longer exploited or abused and their mission is to protect, preserve and enrich the lives of bears throughout the world.

FTB is currently raising funds to build two new sanctuaries in Vietnam and Laos.

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