Rove backs push for bear shelter

Claire Tyrrell

Watching Bopha play in his rainforest enclosure, you would never know the agony of his early life.

The sun bear, now 12 years old, was hog-tied to a post outside a Cambodian restaurant when Free the Bears campaigners rescued him.

"They were going to kill him for bear paw soup," Free the Bears chief executive Matt Hunt said.

Bopha stayed in Free the Bears' Cambodian sanctuary for four years before being sent to Perth Zoo in 2007.

Mr Hunt said the sanctuary, built in 1998 by Perth's Mary Hutton, was brimming with rescued cubs and desperately needed more room.

"We are getting more cubs rescued than ever before," Mr Hunt said. "Over the last three years, we've rescued more than 10 cubs each year. We're raising money to build a big area to house the cubs."

Comedian and TV host Rove McManus and his wife actress Tasma Walton are among those backing the Free the Bears campaign.

They visited the Cambodian sanctuary in 2008 and again recently to cuddle up to the rescued sun and moon bears.

"Rove is a real animal lover," Mr Hunt said.

"When he and Tasma visited the sanctuary we even named two bears after them."

McManus will be at the Free the Bears breakfast with the bears at Perth Zoo on Friday. Tickets from freethebears.org.