by LUCY CHESTERTON
Picture a windswept mountain top, where actress Asher Keddie is standing only steps away from two beautiful, lumbering bears. A camera crew is quietly recording their first nervous steps toward a new forest enclosure.
Yup, you could say it hasn’t been your typical day in the Mamamia office for me.
The story of how I came to be drinking coffee on a clifftop with Asher Keddie is certainly something (think almost 24 hours in the air and bad airport moussaka), but it’s the story of why we’re here that is the crucial one. We’re here for the bears, and their story is why I am very privileged to be in Romania.
It’s a dramatic setting, but this isn’t a scene from Asher’s addictive Network Ten show, Offspring, where she plays Nina Proudman: it’s a real Romanian mountain in the town of Brasov, and these bears are most definitely living, breathing beauties: Jimy and Jexy, animals rescued from captivity and now about to make the break from their familiar den into a brand-new home. Two of the rescue bears we’ve traveled from all around the world to see.
So, we’re here.
Asher and I, a camera crew and other journos and we’ve all stepped inside the photographs. You know the ones; the pictures that show bears in captivity in Romania, in tiny zoos or backyard cages. Pictures that show bears tightly muzzled, barely breathing, hungry, their coats scarred, their limbs hanging at odd angles. Well, we’re inside those scenes now, and taking our own pictures, so we can bring to Australia the work of WSPA and the Zarnesti [COR] sanctuary in Romania.
Asher, who has always had a deep connection to these creatures, is clearly moved by being here. And the bears adore her: their great heads follow her tiny figure as she moves from place to place along the fenceline. She’s a born bear whisperer.
Me? Well, I’ll be honest; the plight of these animals wasn’t something I’d followed very closely before. Now, having been here, breathed the same air as them, it’s a different story. Before, I thought I understood. Now, I truly do.
This morning, the gate between the quarantine field and the greater enclosure (“a five star palace” in the words of Cristina Lupis [CORR], who created this place) was drawn back, and we all leaned forward excitedly to see the two bears hurry into their new home. Five hours later, we were still waiting. Eight hours later, same deal.
The bears, having lived in quarantine for three months, just weren’t ready to move on. And the beautiful thing? For once in their lives, nobody forced them to move with a shout or a blow to their powerful, delicate heads. We just waited for the bears. We’re still waiting for the crossover, and that’s the most powerful thing about being here: the way we can wait for the bears, and the bears can take all the time they need.
That’s what’s happening in Romania, where I am so grateful to be on assignment for Mamamia.
You can donate to Bricks for Bears here: http://bricksforbears.org.au/. Lucy Chesterton is the entertainment reporter for Mornings on the Nine Network and starts work at a ridiculously early hour. You can find her on Twitter here.
Sadly, the whole office aren’t in Romania, hanging out with television stars and saving the world’s wildlife but here’s what’s been happening here at home:
What’s been happening in your world? What’s on your mind?