On this episode of Talk Travel Asia Podcast, we chat with Matt Hunt about Free the Bears, an organization that rescues and protects bears with programs in Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia, where today’s guest happens to be available for a live interview with me, your co-host Trevor Ranges. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit and support the Free the Bears sanctuary here in Cambodia, where Matt will soon join us, so I’ll turn the mike over to my co-host Scott Coates, who has visited Free the Bears’ site in Luang Prabang, Laos. 

Scot and Trevor Banter about the bear sanctuaries in Laos and Cambodia. Our APLP alumni Lucky Wu worked with Moon Bears in China for quite a while and that brought it to the forefront of my knowledge. Bile. Scott talks about his visit to the center outside of Luang Prabang in October 2019. Very impressive. Scott’s Dad wears one of their t-shirts that he got him regularly.

Free the Bears has helped rescued over 950 bears from the world’s most vulnerable bear species (sun bears, moon bears and sloth bears) and provide ongoing care to hundreds of rescued sun bears and moon bears at the sanctuaries in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Their center in Cambodia is the largest bear sanctuary in the world!

Rescued bears in Cambodia (Courtesy of Free the Bears)

Guest Intro: Our guest, Matt Hunt has been working with wild animals for over 30 years – initially in zoos and wildlife parks, but for the past 20 years, his work has focused on combating the illegal wildlife trade in Southeast Asia. As Chief Executive of Free the Bears, he is responsible for overseeing projects and partnerships in three Asian countries, developing world-class bear sanctuaries, training local teams to provide optimal care and promoting environmental awareness in some of the world’s least developed countries. Matt believes that long-term conservation of wildlife in Southeast Asia will only be achieved through a combination of strengthened law enforcement and improved environmental awareness.

Matt Hunt preparing for a Night In A Cage fundraiser for Free the Bears

Listen to Episode 146 to hear Matt answer the following questions about Free the Bears efforts in Asia. 

  • Could you first tell us where you’re originally from and you did before this life?
  • And when and why did you settle over here and how did you get associated with Free the Bears? 
  • Give us a little background on the Free the Bears.
  • Where are you typically based and what are your duties?
  • Where does funding come from?
  • What kind of bears do you protect and what are the dangers they face?
  • What’s the goal of Free the Bears and how well do you feel you’re doing?
  • So you rescue a bear, then what is its life and what’s the goal with them?
  • Are bears ever successfully released? 
  • What do locals seem to think of your work and the sanctuaries?
  • What in-country opposition have you faced along the way?
  • Why and when did you make the sanctuaries tourist attractions?
  • Tell us about the experiences visitors can have in the different countries. 
  • What will people gain from the experience?
  • I see you have some baby bears on the website – are you breeding them as well?
  • Are there any opportunities to experience these bears in the wild? 
  • What does the future look like for Free the Bears?
  • You won the San Diego Zoo Global 2018 Conservation Medal – tell us about that.
  • How can people learn more and get involved?
  • What’s next for you?
Rescued moon bear climbing high at FTB sanctuary


Volunteers helping hide food

Learn more about Scott and Trevor:

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