The generosity of international comedian Arj Barker was rewarded in Wollongong on Wednesday night after he was presented with a rescued moon bear.
While Barker joked about being certain the hotel would be OK with him taking a bear he called Poopie back to his room, it will actually stay in a sanctuary in China. There it will live out the rest of its days in comfort after spending most of its life trapped in a small cage and milked for its bile on a bear farm.
After bringing the audience to tears of laughter the comedian was visibly moved when Animals Asia founder and chief executive Dr Jill Robinson called him back on stage and presented him the bear at the end of the sell-out performance he did for free at Illawarra IPAC.
More than 500 people were present for the fund-raising event called Comedy For A Cause - The Best Of Arj Barker, which was organised by Wollongong singer, marriage celebrant, trivia host and photographer Kristie Poole.
The female moon bear Dr Robinson presented to Barker was one of six animals rescued from an illegal bear bile farm in China's Sichuan Province in January.
After extensive veterinary rehabilitation Poopie now resides at the Animals Asia Bear Rescue Centre in the same province.
Barker agreed to donate his time to perform at the one-off fund-raising event after being told about the plight suffered by thousands of captive moon bears by Ms Poole.
"No one with a heart could learn what these bears are going through and not want to help them," he said.
During the show Barker said he had great respect for people such as Dr Robinson and Ms Poole who fought so hard for a cause.
"I love animals and I was already a little bit aware of the bile farming," he said.
"I had read about it but I had a hard time trying to watch the video. It is amazing to be given a bear. I didn't know about it. It was a complete surprise."
Dr Robinson said it was one of the most amazing fund-raising events she had ever been part of and that was because of the way Wollongong people had so generously embraced the cause and raised around $30,000.
And she said the support of such a high-profile entertainer was fantastic.
"Arj has just been so generous to do this for the bears," she said.
"Bear farming is no laughing matter, but thanks to Arj Barker's unique comedy style we've been able to raise much-needed funds to help us continue our invaluable work. Arj's amazing performance and obvious passion for the bears has made us all here at Animals Asia very happy. Presenting him with his own bear was the best way we could show our appreciation."