A British woman who is behind the world's largest rescue of farmed bears in China will be visiting Wirral later this month to explain how she became involved in the mission.

Jill Robinson, founder of the charity Animals Asia Foundation - which is working to end bear farming in China and Vietnam - will be addressing an audience at the School of Veterinary Science in Neston.

The rescue - involving 130 caged bears in Nanning, southern China - is supported by UK celebrities such as Virginia McKenna, Judi Dench, Peter Egan, Lesley Nicol, and cast members from Downton Abbey.

The campaign began in April and involves Asiatic black bears - known as moon bears because of the golden crescent on their chest.

In an unprecedented move, the bear farm will be taken over by the charity and converted into a sanctuary with  farm workers themselves being re-trained to care for the animals under AAF's guidance.

The process will take about two years and will bring to three the number of sanctuaries Animals Asia has opened in China and Vietnam.

Bear bile is still used in traditional Chinese medicine, with more than 10,000 bears believed to be in farms in China enduring daily extractions in tiny cages and horrific conditions.

The suffering of these bears has been well documented, with many Chinese doctors now speaking out against the practice.

The latest rescue will mean a ᆪ3m investment by Animals Asia - covering the sanctuary conversion as well as budgeting for three years of bear care.

The move has been hailed as historic by Jill, who sees it as a significant step in the charity's ongoing campaign to end bear bile farming.

She said: "China has long been outraged by this cruel practice and our statistics show 87% of Chinese are against bear bile farming.

This negotiation is a result of years of growing awareness and increased opposition, with the bear farmer showing the moral integrity to do the right thing. 

The new sanctuary will be modelled on Animals Asia's China Bear Rescue Centre in Chengdu, which provides comfortable dens and spacious outdoor living areas simulating a natural environment for bears, where they can have abundant and delicious food, and a life free from pain and fear.

Farmed bears cannot be released into the wild. For younger, farm-bred bears their lack of survival skills would render them incapable of living in the wild, and for older bears, sickness and disease are prevalent as a consequence of their incarceration.

Many bears spend up to 30 years in cages no bigger than their own body.

It was in 1993 that Jill came face to face with victims of the bear bile industry when she stumbled across caged bears in the cellar of a shop selling bear bile to the public.

Today she is widely recognised as the world's leading expert on this cruel industry.

Anyone wanting to attend Jill's presentation in Neston, on Thursday, June 26, at 7pm, should telephone the AAF UK office on 01579 347 148.

Tickets cost £15 and include a glass of wine and light refreshments.