So a few weeks ago, I got a very strange phone call one morning. I can’t exactly recreate it, but it was from Linda, Public Relations Specialist at the Oregon Zoo. What did she need? Well, help writing a knitting pattern. So far so good. What kind of pattern? Well, mittens. Again reasonable. Then the odd part. Mittens… for bears… in Asia.
It definitely crossed my mind that this was a prank call. In fact, my college roommate way back when was a master prank caller and this is exactly the sort of brilliantly edge-of-the-plausible thing that she would have crafted. But, no, Linda from the Zoo is totally legit (and incredibly nice) and the real story of the cold-toed Asian bears is just as sad as it at first seems odd.
The organization directing the bear mitten effort is the Animals Asia Foundation, a Hong Kong-based charity dedicated to ending cruelty and restoring respect for all animals in Asia. The images in this post are from their blog. Right now, they need mittens for the Malayan Sun Bear.
Any zoo folks reading this are welcome to correct me, but my understanding is that bears are rescued from inhumane conditions where they are destined to become parts for traditional medicinal remedies, snacks, and the like. The AAF’s blog goes into more detail about the stories of the bears – be warned it is not for the squeamish. As you might imagine, the bears usually need veterinary care and (also not a big stretch here to imagine) they must be anaesthetized to receive this care. It’s important that they stay warm and comfortable during the process but, just as for humans, bears’ extremities are the first things to chill. What they need is HUGE mittens to help their paws stay warm while they’re asleep.
So, I did my best to write up a pattern, and a few days later a whole group of Oregon Zoo volunteers came and started knitting bear mittens. What fun! Tracy Barry from KGW 8 came and interviewed everyone and the story is going to be on Monday’s evening news.
The first finished mitten is below, thanks to Jennie!
So to recap:
1. Knit a mitten for bears in need! Check out our bear mitten page
for the pattern and where to take finished mittens.
2. Watch us on KGW 8 tomorrow evening!