A team of about 20 volunteers from our Australian partners (FTB) Free the Bears Fund Inc, descended on the Wildlife SOS Bear Rescue Centers at Agra and Bannerghatta to donate their time. After a short stint of tourism in Delhi, followed by a few days at the pink city of Jaipur and Agra – the city of the Taj Mahal, they got down to being hard core volunteers in a serious way!
They got to work as soon as they reached the Agra Bear Rescue Facility
(ABRF) where they were greeted very warmly by Baiju, Dr Ilaya, Dr JK andthe ABRF team, not to miss Devil the Great Dane who is the unofficial ABRF mascot. After a quick briefing and a tour of the hospital, it was time to get to work
The volunteers split up into groups to do the long list of tasks in front of them. Amongst the very talented and creative group of volunteers were hammock makers, sapling planters, enclosure cleaners and enrichment structure builders. Each group armed with tools and building equipment accompanied the rescue center staff went to the field like true professionals! They dug pits, sewed hammocks, sawed, painted, hammered away at climbing frame structures for hours on end. Some of them even insisted on skipping lunch to make sure the climbing frames were properly fixed. Their dedication was truly inspiring!
After each day’s work at the rescue center, they would return to their hotel in Agra city where they would end up discussing the plans for the next day over dinner. The climbing structures and hammocks were installed and it was truly fulfilling to see the bears enjoy climbing up on these new
enrichment structures and trying their best to rip the hammocks! The volunteer vacation trip at Agra ended with a delicious meal and a bird watching session on the Yamuna River. After taking photos of their achievements that were currently all occupied by happy bears, they bid goodbye to ABRF.
The enthusiastic team was back two days later, now down in Bangalore where
after a day of being tourists, they were itching to get back to work. Even before reaching the Bannerghatta Bear Rescue Centre (BBRC), news had spread about two male bears that were shifted from a local zoo for treatment. Everybody was up early and waiting for their bus to arrive so they could reach the centre and see the bears. The road to BBRC goes through prime forests on the Bannerghatta National Park and is well forested and it is not uncommon to spot plenty of wildlife such as birds, deer, leopards and wild elephants. The volunteers had their eyes peeled, hoping to get lucky with some wildlife sightings. On reaching the centre everyone jumped out quickly to catch a glimpse of the newly transferred bears who had arrived at the center for treatment.
Divided into groups, off they went to work under the guidance of Dr. Arun and his team building climbing structures, stitching hammocks and doing
anything else that was needed of them. Two days of hard work later, the bears were busy trying to destroy their new hammocks and climbing enrichment structures.
It was a truly enjoyable experience to have such committed volunteers
helping us with the enrichment at the centers. We loved their spirit of
how they took on the task of working hard to help the bears.