A CHARITY set up to help bears across the world celebrated its 10th birthday at the weekend.

The Winton Foundation for the Welfare of Bears works to raise awareness of the plight of the animals and support those in need.

Established in 2010 by Tranent resident Lesley Winton in memory of, and as a tribute, to her father, the small, volunteer-run charity has now raised more than £24,000 to help bears in need around the world.

Bears are one of the most exploited animals in the world, suffering from bear baiting, bear farming and bear dancing, as well as being exploited for human entertainment, profit and the tourist trade through circuses, hunting, the restaurant trade and posing for photographs while chained up.

The foundation works to raise awareness of their plight and in the past 10 years has raised enough funds to support 41 beneficiary organisations, helping bears in 19 countries: Cambodia, Canada, China, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Peru, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, UK, USA and Vietnam.

Through its educational work, its Facebook page has reached thousands of people around the world, including more than 240,000 children in more than 600 schools in China with its educational posters on the plight of the giant panda.

Among the cases the charity has supported over the years were those of Grace, a rescued bear who lived at the Woodlands Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, USA, and Bodo, who lives in a sanctuary in China.

Grace suffered from osteodystrophy and was blind but loved the smell of pine, so the foundation donated a Christmas tree for her.

Bodo was rescued from a bear farm and is missing a paw and forearm, thought to have been severed by a trap. He was provided a hammock by the foundation.

The Ormiston-based charity Fostering Compassion began as the humane education project of the bear foundation before being established as a charity in its own right.

The two charities remain close, with the bear foundation sponsoring educational trips for care-experienced children to meet and learn about bears in need.

The foundation also established Bears Matter Month in 2013 – now a regular annual event devoting a full month from February to March to raising funds for and awareness of the plight of bears.

On the foundation reaching its 10th birthday, founder and CEO Lesley Winton said: “I really feel quite emotional about this significant milestone, especially since I set the charity up in memory of and as a tribute to my dad, who died when I was four months old – I hope he would have been proud.

“I have an amazing team who work very hard behind the scenes and, for such a small charity run entirely by volunteers, we are really proud of our achievements over the last 10 years.

“It’s been a great honour to work with and support so many dedicated people and organisations around the world working to rescue and protect bears and stop their exploitation. Here’s to the next 10 years!”

The charity will be holding a number of fundraising initiatives, as well as re-launching its website as it looks forward.

To learn more about the foundation’s work or to donate, visit its website wintonbearfoundation.org; alternatively, follow it on Facebook or email info@wintonbear foundation.org