A day with the Bears of Bannerghatta Bear Sanctuary
Looking after rescued ' ˜dancing bears' is a commitment that requires around the clock dedication. To gain an understanding of the workings of the Bannerghatta Bear Sanctuary, you would need to drink several cups of coffee and arrive before 3 AM.
The bears are not up at this time; they are snuggled up for the night and quite oblivious to the clamoring in the kitchen. At 3am, the six hour task of making the morning porridge for the bears begins.
This long preparation time is required because there is no electricity; therefore, our patient cook waits two hours for the water to boil and then an additional four hours for the porridge to cook and then cool. (This process is repeated for the evening meal)
About 8:30 AM the sanctuary is buzzing with excitement. The bears know that a tasty breakfast is coming and they cannot contain their excitement. They express their overwhelming joy with a variety of low pitched and high pitched grunts that crescendo as 9:00 AM approaches.
Wildlife SOS has six dedicated full-time bear keepers who stay at the sanctuary around the clock. After giving the bears their breakfast, knowing they will be occupied for a short time, the bear keepers disperse to the bear enclosures to hide treats. The keepers try to cleverly hide fruits in different places every day. This provides enrichment and exercise for the bears by stimulating them to forage.
At 1:00 pm it is time for lunch. Although it doesn' t take as much time to prepare, it still requires a lot of planning. Some of the bears are picky eaters and are very particular about what fruits they will eat. Other bears have teeth missing and find it difficult to consume certain foods. Therefore, lunch is a meal that is prepared with each individual' s tastes and special needs considered.
In the afternoon most of the bears find their favorite place to slumber. During this time Dr. Arun, Wildlife SOS' s on-site veterinarian, oversees the health of the bears. Dr. Arun works very closely with the bear keepers and depends on them to know when a bear has a change in appetite, activity level or behavior. Dr. Arun reports that the bears at the sanctuary are much like children in their dislike for doctors and are unenthusiastic when he comes to examine them. However, unlike a pediatrician, he can not use a lollipop as a tool to calm their anxiety. Therefore, he relies on a lot of patience and a few - ˜tricks of the trade' to evaluate his unruly patients.
As the afternoon approaches 5:00 pm, the bears increasingly sound like a poorly practiced choir. The knowledge that they will soon be dining on warm porridge is a thrill and their vocalizations reflect this as they echo throughout the sanctuary.
Bed time for all comes early. For the staff it is a time to relax and feel the pride and satisfaction of caring for the bears. For the bears it is a time to rejuvenate from a day of play and mischief.